Redistributing Taxing Rights to the Global South through the Digitalized Economy
By Carlos Protto
A historic discussion is underway within both the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on redistributing taxing rights to the Global South through proposals on taxing the digitalized economy. An overview of the issues at stake is provided in this SouthViews by Carlos Protto, Member of the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters and Argentina’s representative in the Steering Group of the OECD/Group of Twenty (G20) Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). The text is based on his presentation at the international virtual seminar co-organized by the South Centre on “Equity in Global Tax Regimes and Implications for the SDGs” held on 7 October 2020. The recording is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wAESmfvRN4&ab_channel=uomlive.
Creative imitation at the front of pharma biotechnology opportunities: some lessons from late late industrialization countries
By Pablo Lavarello and Sebastián Sztulwark
Given that high-cost biopharmaceutical drug patents have started to expire since the early 2000s, biotechnology opens up opportunities for developing countries to pursue an upgrading process by entering the sector as early imitators. Developing these opportunities was transformed on priority needs of health systems since the outbreak of COVID-19. Certain developing countries have advanced in a strategy of imitating biotechnological reference drugs once their patents have expired, opening a possibility for a catching up process.
Access to medical supplies and devices — the lesser known story of COVID-19 and medical monopoly
By Salimah Valiani
Discussions around access to potential vaccines for COVID-19 are widespread, particularly in the global South. Much less discussed is the lack of access to already existing medical technology crucial to stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus and assisting its most severely affected victims. The latter is the outcome of the monopoly control of medical technology — a phenomenon stretching at least as long as the monopoly of Big PHARMA — though much less understood.
Today the judicial authority may be faced with balancing patent rights and patients’ rights or right to life. It shall use all the tools at its command and innovate if necessary, but shall rule in favour of life.
Digital Transformation: Prioritizing Data Localization
By Bilal Zaka
After years of rather stable and predictable growth of telecommunications and software systems, the last decade has witnessed a tremendous shift towards unpredictable and disruptive innovations in every field of life. Today, we are experiencing the true social, political, financial and cultural effects of what is termed as globalization, deregulation, liberalization and convergence. Some major factors influencing this change are proliferation of mobile devices, ubiquitous wireless access to internet and increasing interventions of online or internet-driven technologies. While this digital transformation is inevitable, it is imperative that we equip ourselves to handle the negative implications of external influence caused by foreign dependencies and the non-regulatory nature of the new information ecosystem.
Digital Sequence Information (DSI) and national measures: approaches and perspectives
By Jorge Cabrera Medaglia
Digital sequence information (DSI, or genetic sequence data) is an emerging aspect of synthetic biology which involves certain functional genetic sequences being shared by different means. The genetic sequences from plants, animals or micro-organisms could be used to support conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, to develop and commercialize new products and processes, or for other purposes. The regulation of the use of DSI for both commercial and non-commercial entities may have huge implications for the access and benefit-sharing (ABS) regimen established in the international instruments, ongoing processes and regional and national legislation that implement these conventions. International guidance is needed to promote a coordinated approach to secure fair and equitable sharing of benefits while avoiding a negative impact on the non-commercial benefits arising from the genetic data.
The Covid-19 Pandemic and Liability under Investment Treaties
By Muthucumaraswamy Sornarajah
COVID-19 can increase liability for countries under international investment treaties. Professor M. Sornarajah, Emeritus Professor at the National University of Singapore, discusses in this SouthViews the imminent challenges faced under such treaties by developing countries. The text isbased on his presentation at the South Centre webinar on “Responsible Investment for Development and Human Rights: Assessing Different Mechanisms to Face Possible Investor-State Disputes from COVID-19 Related Measures” held on 30th July 2020. The recording of the webinar is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXPswKuywvA
Coronavirus pandemic: the vaccine as exit strategy
A GLOBAL HURDLE RACE AGAINST TIME WITH A SPLIT JURY
By Francisco Colman Sercovich
Sars-CoV-2, a novel pathogen, submits a stern warning, a clarion call, on the huge human costs of shortsightedness, inaction and lessons lost in the face of common predicaments at the global level. Yet, a number of key actors remain oblivious, including ethically-challenged politicians seeking to elbow their way to the front of the queue at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable nations and communities. Contrary to expectations being formed, a safe and effective vaccine for the Covid-19 strain once, if ever, attained, is the best way out but unlikely to do as a silver bullet in the midst of the complexities and unknowns at play.
As a result of the harmful impact of the pandemic and ensuing policy aftermath, the world runs the risk of squandering the gains barely made in the fight against poverty over the last few decades – a looming scenario of egregious global governance failure, in view of the eight close calls recently received (three flu epidemics or near-flu epidemics, two Sars episodes, one Mers episode, Zika & Ebola). A promptly and universally distributed vaccine promises to prevent future disease outbreaks. However, many scientific, economic and distributional hurdles stand in the way. Whilst each day counts, the survival of hundreds of millions of lives hangs in the balance as health issues and those pertaining to livelihoods, nutrition, schooling and deprivation are so closely interdependent. Can we rule out the need to resort to internationally sanctioned legal remedies as an inescapable response?
Lessons from COVID-19: Pharmaceutical Production as a Strategic Goal
By Dr. Carlos M. Correa
As often said, major crises bring about challenges but also opportunities. The strategic importance of a local pharmaceutical industry has been growingly recognized as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Developing countries should take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen their pharmaceutical industry, including biological medicines. Industrial policies would need to be reformulated under an integrated approach so as to expand value added & create jobs while addressing public health needs. South-South cooperation may also play an important role in increasing the contribution of developing countries to the global production of pharmaceuticals.
The weakness of multilateral cooperation was evident at the meetings of the Group of 20 and the Bretton Woods institutions in Washington. The limited international cooperation contrasts with the ambitious domestic policies adopted by some developed countries, and in particular the United States, to manage their crisis. The big losers will be the emerging countries, for whom cooperation has so far been minimal.
Making Covid-19 Medical Products Affordable: Voluntary Patent Pool and TRIPS Flexibilities
By Sudip Chaudhuri
The proposal of Costa Rica to create a voluntary pool mechanism for medical products and technologies for COVID-19 has evoked huge interest and optimism. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Costa Rica have followed it up through a Solidarity Call emphasizing the need for voluntary licensing on non-exclusive basis to the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP). The success of a voluntary pool critically depends on the willingness of the patentees to join the pool. In a public health crisis, boundaries of public policy must not be determined by the patentees. MPP will work much better if the patentees are compelled or induced to join the pool. International cooperation is important in this regard. Highlighting the virtues of voluntary measures and promoting MPP without adequate emphasis on the use of compulsory licensing and other TRIPS flexibilities, actually weakens the MPP. In the light of the experience of MPP, the basic objective of this paper is to analyze to what extent voluntary pool mechanisms can be relied upon to make COVID-19 medical products affordable and accessible. It is important to appreciate the achievements of MPP. But the constraints under which it operates, and its limitations must also be kept in mind.