[Ip-health] 18 December 2020 - EU Statement at the WTO General Council - ITEM 13 TRIP COUNCIL MATTERS

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Dec 18 12:54:11 PST 2020


<SNIP>

What is most needed now, beyond developing vaccines, is the ramping up of
manufacturing capacity, and a seamless flow through by the transport and
distribution sectors. The best way of achieving that is by disseminating
the technology and know-how of those who developed the vaccines, through
collaboration with other companies that can contribute to the developers’
manufacturing capacity. Intellectual property is a key factor in providing
a framework that enables this collaboration.

The needed increase of production capacity is already happening, as
developers of vaccines are entering into manufacturing agreements with
producers, and are expanding global production by transferring their
technology to licensees.


https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/world-trade-organization-wto/90872/eu-statements-wto-general-council-18-december-2020_en

*ITEM 13 TRIP COUNCIL MATTERS*

The European Union would like to thank the chair of the TRIPS Council for
the work that has been done and is very pleased that the TRIPS Council has
been able to agree on the status report, and we look forward to continuing
discussions on this important topic next year.

Our exchanges so far have shown that Members agree on the extraordinary
challenges that we face as a result of COVID-19, both to protect public
health and to limit damage to the real economy. We are united in our
commitment to address them, and in our wish to provide universal,
equitable, and rapid access to vaccines and treatments.

The European Union has been leading the Coronavirus Global Response for
universal access to affordable treatments and vaccination, and the EU is
the main contributor to the COVAX Facility (the international initiative to
ensure global access to vaccines for COVID-19).

<SNIP>


But there is reason for optimism. Over the last days there have been
announcements of production and regulatory approvals of new vaccines – and
starting deployment. The challenges ahead are still enormous, bearing in
mind that the technology behind the vaccines is often new, production has
never been attempted on this scale before, and the logistics of storing and
distributing medicines at very low temperatures – in one case minus 70
degrees Celsius – are daunting. But we must recognise that there is now a
shred of light at the end of the tunnel.

<SNIP>

Of course, the TRIPS Agreement and the principles of the Doha Declaration
should also play a role, as they reflect a careful balance between
protecting intellectual property on one hand, which is a crucial incentive
to innovation, and promoting widespread access to medicines and health
care, on the other hand.

We believe that the concerns that have been raised in the discussion in the
TRIPS Council can be addressed through the TRIPS Agreement and the
flexibilities it offers. Primarily, there is the possibility in TRIPs to
grant compulsory licences. It is important to note that this is done by
governments without the consent of a patent owner. It also includes the
possibility of granting fast-track licences, where no negotiations with a
patent holder are required, including for export to countries with no or
insufficient manufacturing capacity. These are absolutely legitimate tools
for Members in need, and as we are in the midst of this pandemic, I want to
be very clear about that.

We have noted carefully the difficulties conveyed by some Members with
regard to the implementation of these flexibilities, and we are very ready
to discuss ways of overcoming them. Administrative burdens should not stand
in the way of manufacturing and delivering vaccines to where they are
needed.

But we also have to recognise that the TRIPS approach is delivering
results: there has been an unprecedented collaboration over the last
months, between governments, pharmaceutical innovators, foundations and
researchers.

Vaccines are being approved within 12 months of the first signs of the
virus. Normally such a process would have taken 10 years. Only last May
reputable scientists were estimating that a lead time of 18 months was the
most optimistic scenario for a vaccine to be developed and approved. We are
just six months since that time. It has been estimated that over 1000
potential treatments and vaccines are in development. Much of this
response, like for example the vaccines based on mRNA technology, builds on
knowledge and research capacity that has been developed over many years
with the support of intellectual property incentives.

What is most needed now, beyond developing vaccines, is the ramping up of
manufacturing capacity, and a seamless flow through by the transport and
distribution sectors. The best way of achieving that is by disseminating
the technology and know-how of those who developed the vaccines, through
collaboration with other companies that can contribute to the developers’
manufacturing capacity. Intellectual property is a key factor in providing
a framework that enables this collaboration.

The needed increase of production capacity is already happening, as
developers of vaccines are entering into manufacturing agreements with
producers, and are expanding global production by transferring their
technology to licensees.

No doubt more needs to be done in the weeks and months ahead, but I would
note that most private sector companies have either accepted to produce at
cost for citizens in developing countries, or licenced production to
producers in the developing countries (including notably to producers in
the countries that are proposing to waive certain provisions of the TRIPs
agreement), or indicated publicly that they do not intend to enforce their
IP rights.

In sum, the EU believes that the important and complex issues brought up in
the context of the ongoing discussions merit further reflection, as we try
to build agreement on the best responses to the pandemic.

In this spirit the European union remains committed to continuing this in
an open and comprehensive manner, as we seek to leverage all instruments to
provide for a robust, rapid and universal response. Mr. Chairman, we are
ready to address these challenges together in a spirit of solidarity and
cooperation.





-- 
Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org


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