Handelskampanjen

Handelskampanjen

Skarp oppfordring fra sivilsamfunnet til lederen av TRIPS-rådet

Dagfinn Sørli, leder av TRIPS-rådet i WTO.

Handelskampanjen er en av organisasjonene fra det globale sivilsamfunnet som har signert på et brev til Dagfinn Sørli, leder av TRIPS-rådet i Verdens handelsorganisasjon (WTO), om at han må få på plass tekstbaserte forhandlinger om et midlertidlig unntak for immaterielle rettigheter for utstyr og vaksiner mot COVID-19 (TRIPS waiver).

Civil Society Open Letter to the Chair of TRIPS Council

8th December 2021

Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli

Permanent Mission of Norway

Geneva

We are writing this letter to express our absolute outrage at the lack of any meaningful decision on the TRIPS Waiver proposal submitted more than one year ago to the TRIPS Council.

This waiver proposal co-sponsored by 64 WTO Members and supported by many more Members is extremely important for the crucial role it can play in diversifying and scaling-up production and achieving equitable access to the medical products that are much-needed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Its significance has been reaffirmed by the ever-increasing global support of the international community, especially endorsements by international organizations including WHO, UNITAID, UNAIDS, UNCTAD, civil society, trade unions, health workers, world leaders, faith leaders, academics, intellectual property and human rights experts.

Even the European Parliament has called on the EU to “actively participate in text based negotiations on a temporary TRIPS waiver” and “to support the granting of a temporary waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement for COVID-19, in order to enhance timely global access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics by addressing global production constraints and supply shortages.”[1]. The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response established by the WHO has also called for the adoption of the TRIPS Waiver proposal given that “the promise of...collaboration has not yet delivered adequate access to COVID-19-related products or technologies everywhere they are needed”.[2]

In May 2021 following the submission of the revised waiver proposal (IP/C/W/669/Rev.1), at the TRIPS Council meeting in June you concluded you had “not heard any objections to engaging in a text-based process on the waiver proposal”.[3]  It is thus astonishing that 6 months on, reportedly you are now of the view that there is no agreement on the draft text  to start text-based negotiations.[4]  Frustratingly, this view not only takes us backwards rather than forward but also legitimises the obstructionist attitude adopted by a few WTO Members opposing the TRIPS Waiver proposal . It is also startling for the very purpose of text-based negotiations is to reach agreement on a text. The Draft decision text for the Waiver proposal co-sponsored by 64 WTO Members has been placed before the TRIPS Council for more than a year, and as mentioned has received extensive global support including from other WTO Members.

The real issue is not the absence of text on which discussions can be held, but rather the absence of good faith among some WTO Members that have stubbornly refused to meaningfully engage with the proposed text. Publicly, both the United States and the European Union claim to support the idea of a possible waiver, albeit there continues to be disagreement on the parameters of the waiver.[5] Thus we believe it is important for you to urgently require the US and the EU as well as other WTO Members to either engage with IP/C/W/669/Rev.1 text by making concrete textual proposals or not to block adoption of the Waiver proposal.

Inaction is no longer an option for the TRIPS Council. The Economist predicts that the actual death toll for COVID-19 is significantly higher than the official count and is likely to be approximately 17.6 million people[6] with the pandemic increasingly affecting developing and least developed countries. UNCTAD has also concluded that the damage from the COVID-19 crisis has exceeded that of the Global Financial Crisis in most parts of the global economy, but has been particularly draining on the developing world, adding that the total cost of delayed vaccinations – in terms of lost income – will amount to US$2.3 trillion, with the developing world shouldering the majority of that bill.

The TRIPS Council needs to stop making excuses and dragging its feet. As the Chair of the TRIPS Council,  you must not allow a few WTO Members to paralyse the TRIPS Council by tacitly supporting their delaying and disinformation tactics.  We strongly call on you to start the text-based negotiations on the draft decision text (IP/C/W/669/Rev.1) currently before the TRIPS Council. Every day of delay means more deaths, more lives lost, and more setbacks to the recovery of the global economy. As the Director General of the WTO DG has stated 7 billion people are waiting for a WTO outcome on the TRIPS Waiver.

cc.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Director-General World Trade Organization

[1] See https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2021-0474_EN.pdf

[2] https://theindependentpanel.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/COVID-19-Losing-Time_Final.pdf

[3] WTO Doc. IP/C/M/100

[4] Geneva Health Files Newsletter Edition #112 

[5] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2019-2024/dombrovskis/announcements/european-parliament-plenary-session-statement-executive-vice-president-valdis-dombrovskis_enhttps://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/11/26/statement-by-president-joe-biden-on-the-omicron-covid-19-variant/

[6] https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/coronavirus-excess-deaths-estimates

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