South Centre Comments on the Draft Annotated Outline of a WHO Convention, Agreement or Other International Instrument on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response
24 June 2022
The South Centre welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on the draft annotated outline of a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Comments are provided with respect to the process and the content.
TRIPS WAIVER: AN INSUFFICIENT MULTILATERAL RESPONSE. TRIPS-CONSISTENT NATIONAL ACTIONS ARE CALLED FOR
After almost 20 months from the submission of a “TRIPS waiver” request by India and South Africa, co-sponsored by 65 WTO member States (and supported by more than 100 WTO Members), a “Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement” (WT/MIN(22)/W/15/Rev.2) (‘the Decision’) was belatedly adopted by the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization on 17 June 2022.
This Decision does recognize that, as argued by developing countries and a large number of organizations and academics, intellectual property (IP) poses obstacles for the expansion of manufacturing capacity and timely access to health products and technologies to respond to COVID-19. The response to the pandemic required a rapid increase in the supply of countermeasures, while technology holders refused to share their technologies.
Not only developed countries successfully deviated the negotiations towards an outcome different from what was pursued by developing countries’ diplomats; the process for its adoption did not allow for the full and informed participation of the latter. The process leading to the Decision confirms the need to fully use the TRIPS flexibilities to address emergency and other situations where public health and other public interests are at stake, and to review the current international IP regime (including article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement) to accelerate the sharing of technology, including know-how.
Doha Twenty Years On – Has The Promise Been Betrayed?
By Yousuf Vawda and Bonginkosi Shozi
The Doha Declaration’s twentieth anniversary in November 2021 has taken place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The experience of the past two years has demonstrated that the very factors that necessitated the Declaration—the problems of inequitable access to medicines and other health technologies for the world’s poor—continue to plague us.
Has the promise of the Doha Declaration been betrayed? In this contribution, we critically engage with this question, focusing our appraisal on whether the Doha Declaration has been successful in fulfilling its commitments to: (a) advancing access to health; (b) equity and fairness in the relations between WTO Members States; and (c) recognising perspectives from the developing world in formulating IP policy. Ultimately, we conclude that the promise of the Doha Declaration has failed to materialise.
There are many reasons for this. For instance, developed country governments have intentionally undermined the Declaration by their insistence on inserting more onerous TRIPS-plus provisions in free trade agreements and economic partnership agreements, which decimate the limited flexibilities permitted by the TRIPS Agreement. And where countries have sought to use such flexibilities, they have been assailed by an over-litigious pharmaceutical industry, and threats by governments such as the US 301 Watch List. For these reasons, we argue for the need for alternative paradigms to challenge Western hegemony and norms regarding IP and other trade-related issues, and for effectively challenging this through the application of a “decoloniality” approach.
Twenty Years After Doha: An Analysis of the Use of the TRIPS Agreement’s Public Health Flexibilities in India
By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD
The World Trade Organization (WTO) linked intellectual property protection with trade. The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), however, included a number of public health flexibilities in order to provide latitude to the Member States to tailor their national patent laws to fit their individual needs. In 2001, the Doha Declaration further clarified and reaffirmed the existing TRIPS flexibilities. This paper argues that India has taken the lead role in enacting the TRIPS Agreement’s substantive and procedural patent flexibilities by introducing unique legislative measures to deal with the problem of access to medicines. This article evaluates India’s use of section 3(d) as a subject matter exclusivity provision. It examines constitutional validity and TRIPS compliance of section 3(d). It also evaluates India’s use of the flexibility to define the term “inventive step”. Moreover, this article evaluates India’s use of compulsory licensing, the most notable exception to patent rights provided under the TRIPS Agreement. This empirical study is important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has once again highlighted the same public health issues that the Doha Declaration sought to address twenty years ago.
South Centre Contributions on ‘taxation, illicit financial flows and human rights’ to the report of the Independent Expert to the UN General Assembly, 77th session
The South Centre offers its comments to the report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights to the General Assembly, 77th session.
Manufacturing for Export: A TRIPS-Consistent Pro-Competitive Exception
by Carlos M. Correa and Juan I. Correa
The paper discusses the flexibilization of the sui generis system of supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) under European law recently introduced to allow for the manufacturing, stockpiling and export of covered products. Against this background, it examines the viability under the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) of an exception allowing for the manufacture and export of patent-protected products. It concludes that such an exception would promote competition and enhance access to medicines (including biologicals) for the general public while being consistent with Article 30 of the TRIPS Agreement if read in accordance with the principles of interpretation of customary international law.
STATEMENT BY CARLOS M. CORREA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE SOUTH CENTRE, TO THE MEETING OF THE NAM HEALTH MINISTERSON THE OCCASION OF THE 75TH WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY, MAY 20, 2022
The South Centre has closely followed issues concerning access to medicines and the work of the WHO over the years. In the last couple of years, it has provided analyses and advice in connection with the COVID-19 crisis that has so severely affected the members of NAM.
South Centre Statement to the 23rd Session of the Working Group on the Right to Development
15 – 20 May 2022
Although we need to increase the international efforts to effectively realize the RtD, there seems to be insufficient engagement by many countries in the relevant intergovernmental processes. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to encourage and mobilize the participation of all countries in such processes. This Working Group is in a remarkable position to provide a platform for a participatory process that allows for the exchange of views and to build the necessary consensus to move forward.
Advancing Global Response to Antimicrobial Resistance: Examining Current Global Initiatives
By Mirza Alas
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a severe ongoing crisis threatening our health systems. Since adopting the WHO Global Action Plan on AMR in 2015, there has been progress, particularly in improving awareness, surveillance and implementation of infection, prevention, and control measures. However, there has been a slower response related to optimizing the use of antimicrobials in the animal sector and actions related to the environment. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has also undermined the implementation of activities to address AMR, including shifting resources to other areas and deprioritizing responses to AMR due to the ongoing pandemic. While national-level actions are at the core of the AMR response, given its global nature and impact, there is broad recognition of the need to ensure that national efforts are complemented with measures at the global level. Examining global initiatives to address AMR and how they can be strengthened to accelerate action is critical to better understand the importance of global coordination and increasing investment to close the gaps that remain.
COVID-19 Vaccines as Global Public Goods: between life and profit
By Katiuska King Mantilla and César Carranza Barona
In the context of a health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, the global availability of and access to vaccines are imperative. This research paper provides an analysis from the perspective of international political economy, of the financing of COVID-19 vaccines and of the market strategies adopted by some of the companies that developed them. It notes that the development of vaccines was supported by substantial public funding from countries that later received preferential access to those vaccines through advance purchases. Despite such public support, the vaccines were not deemed as public goods but remained under the control of their developers.
Analysis of the Outcome Text of the Informal Quadrilateral Discussions on the TRIPS COVID-19 Waiver
By Carlos M. Correa and Nirmalya Syam
Almost one and a half years after the proposal for a waiver of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement regarding health technologies for COVID-19 was proposed by India and South Africa with the support of the majority of WTO Members, the TRIPS Council has been unable to reach consensus on the proposed waiver or engage in text negotiations. In this context, the TRIPS Council agreed to suspend the discussions to allow the possibility of some solution to emerge from informal high-level consultations between the European Union, the United States of America, India and South Africa. Recently, the WTO Director-General transmitted the outcome of the informal consultations along with a draft text to the TRIPS Council. In this context, this policy brief analyzes the elements of the draft text that has been transmitted to the TRIPS Council. The proposed solution, which offers clarifications and limited waivers on some of the provisions governing compulsory licenses on patents relating to vaccines, reflects developed countries’ strong opposition to the broader waiver sought by the proponents to rapidly expand manufacturing capacity and the supply of health products needed to address the pandemic.