The United States is apparently holding hostage a decision to extend the World Trade Organization’s 12th ministerial conference decision on paragraph eight of the TRIPS Agreement to COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics on grounds that Washington cannot reach a decision until the International Trade Commission completes its investigation, our correspondent has learned.
At a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Council meeting Thursday, the United States stated that the ITC report will not be completed until October, further delaying a decision, said people familiar with the discussions.
Paragraph eight of the MC12 decision on the TRIPS Agreement adopted on June 17, 2022 unambiguously stated that “no later than six months from the date of this Decision will decide on its extension to cover the production and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.” On December 16, the General Council recommended that the deadline should be further extended. Yet, three months after that GC decision, there is no light in the tunnel, said participants, after attending the WTO’s TRIPS Council meeting yesterday.
Many developing countries, including the least-developed countries, expressed frustration with further delay in making the decision whether to extend the TRIPS Agreement to COVID-19 tests and medicines. They sought an early decision in order to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to wreak havoc in many countries.
South Africa, which spoke for the co-sponsors of the original TRIPS waiver and additional supporters, drew attention to its proposal (IP/C/W/694) arguing that a more comprehensive waiver would support the efforts to ensure timely, equitable and universal access to safe, affordable, and effective therapeutics and diagnostics as well as ramping up production and expanding supply options.
Given the arduous negotiations on the TRIPS waiver that were held before the MC12 TRIPS Agreement decision, it appears somewhat clear that major pharmaceutical-producing countries are again back to their game of stonewalling, said a TRIPS negotiator after the meeting.
South Africa argued “at a minimum, the extension of the policy tools provided in document WT/MIN (22)/30 to therapeutics and diagnostics will result in a holistic approach to enable developing countries to address those IP barriers that prevent the expansion and diversification of production and increase accessibility to crucial live-saving COVID-19 tools. will deter the effectiveness of the decision.”
Around 20 countries took part in the discussion on paragraph eight, with India, the coordinator of the Least-Developed Countries, the Africa Group, Peru, Venezuela, and Brazil among others took the floor to share the concerns raised by South Africa. Switzerland stated its position that there is no need for extending paragraph eight, suggesting that there is no evidence for such a decision to be taken at this juncture, said people familiar with the discussion.
Japan, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Norway among others from the industrialized camp echoed their respective defensive positions, said a delegate who asked not to be quoted. Major industrialized countries such as the United States, the European Union, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Taiwan and Singapore apparently highlighted a proposal on the role of intellectual property offices on intellectual property and innovation.
At a time when some of the major industrialized countries are opting for friend-shoring, reshoring and deglobalization, countries like the United States have noted, “ the industrial property protection supports international trade, and can lead to an increase in the levels of knowledge and information worldwide through the dissemination of intelligence information.” The co-sponsors of the innovation proposal said “when seeking industrial property protection in various regions/countries, it is vital for applicants that there is an established environment in which they can obtain industrial property rights smoothly and economic predictably.”
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