Left on Our Own: COVID-19, TRIPS-Plus Free Trade Agreements, and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health
By Melissa Omino and Joanna Kahumbu
The cusp of the twentieth anniversary of the WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health (hereafter “the Declaration”) was marked by a global pandemic. The Declaration and its iteration in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (hereafter “TRIPS”) Article 31 bis, should have helped to contain the devastation in least developed and developing countries. The reality is that the pandemic is still ongoing, and the Global South led by South Africa and India are seeking a waiver of provisions to the TRIPS Agreement to ensure that COVID-19 therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines reach their citizens in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus (“the TRIPS waiver”). These citizens are especially vulnerable because of their inability to access vaccines due to their prices and supply shortages caused by the refusal to share manufacturing technology. The Doha Declaration aimed at reaffirming the interpretation and implementation of the TRIPS Agreement to support WTO members’ right to protect public health and promote access to medicines. However, the operationalization of the Declaration via Article 31bis of TRIPS has been cumbersome and procedurally difficult to navigate. This paper argues that the current iteration of the Doha Declaration within TRIPS fails to meet the objectives of the Declaration as demonstrated by the need for a further waiver of the TRIPS agreement. It also attempts to “reimagine” Article 31 bis in light of the TRIPS waiver from the position of the Global South to make it more equitable and practicable and maintain the spirit of the Declaration.
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.
The Impact of a TRIPS COVID Waiver on Trade and Investment Agreements
Program on Intellectual Justice and Intellectual Property, American University Washington College of Law event
February 4, 2022, 10am EST/3pm GMT
Co-Sponsored by the American Branch of the International Law Association and the South Centre
The event will feature a presentation of a South Centre Research Paper by Federica Paddeu and Henning Grosse Ruse-Khan, followed by a round table discussion with international law experts. The Seminar is scheduled for 90 minutes in a public and recorded session, followed by a 30 minute off-camera virtual reception held under Chatham House Rule.
A TRIPS-COVID Waiver and Overlapping Commitments to Protect Intellectual Property Rights Under International IP and Investment Agreements
by Henning Grosse Ruse-Khan and Federica Paddeu
This paper considers legal implications that are likely to emerge from the implementation of a TRIPS Waiver decision. Assuming that a Waiver is adopted in the form presented in the May 2021 proposal by South Africa and India et al, we review the interaction between the Waiver and other commitments to protect IP rights under international IP and investment treaties. Our principal research question is to analyze whether domestic measures implementing the Waiver are compatible with the implementing State’s other obligations to protect IP rights established under multilateral IP treaties, IP and Investment Chapters of FTAs as well as BITs. In light of typical examples for such overlapping commitments, we first focus on (1) defences directly affecting compatibility with these treaty commitments (here referred to as ‘internal’ defences). In a second part, we review (2) potential defences under general international law that may serve to justify (in other words, to preclude the wrongfulness of) such measures. We conclude that often internal and/or general defences will operate to support the implementation of the Waiver despite overlapping commitments in international IP and investment law. This conclusion is reinforced by a purpose-oriented understanding of the TRIPS Waiver as authorizing measures necessary to achieve the goal of “unimpeded, timely and secure access” for all to covered medical technologies “for the prevention, treatment or containment of COVID-19”.
Potential Claims related to IP and Public Health in Investment Agreements: COVID-19, the Proposed TRIPS Waiver and Beyond
By Cynthia Ho
An under-examined issue during the COVID-19 crisis is the potential liability of countries under investment agreements for taking steps to mitigate COVID issues. This Policy Brief provides an overview of how countries may be liable to companies for taking domestic action to protect public health, including pre-COVID claims related to Intellectual Property (IP), as well as possible claims because of COVID emergency measures, including claims that could result if the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Waiver was adopted. The current COVID-19 crisis opens the opportunity to consider and reevaluate the unnecessary threat of international agreements that allow for investment claims and potentially consider their termination.
Implementación de una exención de los ADPIC relacionados con tecnologías y productos sanitarios para la COVID-19: Evitar reclamaciones en virtud de acuerdos de libre comercio e inversión
Por Carlos M. Correa, Nirmalya Syam y Daniel Uribe
Aunque el creciente apoyo de los miembros de la OMC a una propuesta de exención de determinadas obligaciones en virtud del Acuerdo sobre los ADPIC con respecto a los productos sanitarios necesarios para responder a la COVID-19 ha hecho que sea inminente una decisión sobre la exención de los ADPIC, los miembros de la OMC tendrán que aplicar la exención a nivel nacional a través de medidas legislativas, administrativas o judiciales apropiadas, incluidas las órdenes ejecutivas que se han utilizado para aplicar medidas de emergencia en el contexto de la pandemia de la COVID-19. En este sentido, el alcance de la exención de los ADPIC, así como los términos aplicables en los acuerdos de libre comercio (ALC) y los acuerdos internacionales de inversión (AII) también influirán en el espacio de política disponible para que los países apliquen la exención. Será fundamental garantizar un amplio alcance de la exención, así como medidas complementarias para salvaguardar la aplicación de la exención de posibles impugnaciones en el marco de los ALC o los AII. Este documento de investigación analiza algunas opciones que podrían explorarse para permitir la aplicación de la exención de los ADPIC superando los posibles impedimentos que podrían surgir en el marco de dichos acuerdos.
Mise en œuvre d’une dérogation ADPIC pour les technologies et produits de santé pour la COVID-19: prévenir les réclamations dans le cadre des accords de libre-échange et d’investissement
Par Carlos M. Correa, Nirmalya Syam et Daniel Uribe
Bien que le soutien croissant des membres de l’OMC pour une proposition de dérogation à certaines obligations de l’Accord sur les ADPIC concernant les produits de santé nécessaires pour répondre à la pandémie COVID-19 ait rendu imminente une décision sur la dérogation ADPIC, celle-ci devra être mise en œuvre au niveau national par les membres de l’OMC par le biais de mesures législatives, administratives ou judiciaires appropriées, y compris par le biais de décrets qui ont été utilisés pour mettre en œuvre des mesures d’urgence dans le contexte de la pandémie COVID-19. À cet égard, la portée de la dérogation ADPIC, ainsi que les termes des accords de libre-échange (ALE) et des accords internationaux d’investissement (AII) applicables, auront également un impact sur la marge de manœuvre dont disposent les pays pour mettre en œuvre la dérogation. Il sera essentiel de garantir un large champ d’application de la dérogation, ainsi que des mesures complémentaires pour protéger la mise en œuvre de la dérogation contre d’éventuelles contestations dans le cadre des ALE ou des AII. Ce document de recherche examine certaines options qui pourraient être explorées pour permettre la mise en œuvre de la dérogation ADPIC en surmontant les obstacles qui pourraient survenir dans le cadre de tels accords.
Emerging Trends in FTAs and Public Health: Are the EU, USA, and China shifting positions?
Thursday, 7 October 2021
16:00 – 17:30 CET
The South Centre is holding a series of webinars on emerging trends related to free trade agreements (FTAs) and investment agreements that impact public health. The goal is to generate awareness, share experiences and expand knowledge for academics, policymakers and negotiators in ongoing and/or future negotiations. After our first webinar focused on investment treaties and IP, we this webinar examines the EU, USA, and China’s recent experiences.
Implementation of a TRIPS Waiver for Health Technologies and Products for COVID-19: Preventing Claims Under Free Trade and Investment Agreements
by Carlos M. Correa, Nirmalya Syam and Daniel Uribe
While increasing support from WTO members for a proposed waiver from certain obligations under the TRIPS Agreement with regard to health products required for responding to COVID-19 has made a decision on the TRIPS waiver imminent, the waiver will have to be implemented domestically by WTO members through appropriate legislative, administrative or judicial measures, including through executive orders that have been utilized to implement emergency measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, the scope of the TRIPS waiver, as well as the terms of applicable free trade agreements (FTAs) and international investment agreements (IIAs) will also impact the policy space available to countries to implement the waiver. Ensuring a broad scope of the waiver, as well as complementary measures to safeguard the implementation of the waiver from potential challenges under FTAs or IIAs will be critical. This research paper discusses some options that could be explored to enable the implementation of the TRIPS waiver by overcoming possible impediments that could arise under such agreements.
The Investment Facilitation Framework & Most Favoured Nation (MFN) Treatment
By Peter Lunenborg
The issue of Investment Facilitation (IF) is one of the ‘Joint Statement Initiatives’ which has been under negotiation for a number of years between certain World Trade Organization (WTO) Members. It has not been without controversy as there is no multilateral mandate at the WTO for these negotiations. Questions have been raised about how the outcomes of these IF negotiations can be brought into the WTO framework. Despite these uncertainties, there is a draft Investment Facilitation Framework (IFF) text. This Policy Brief discusses the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment as contained in Article 2 of the Investment Facilitation Framework (IFF), also referred to as the Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement (IFDA). This brief highlights the potential implications of the proposed text and proposes some options.
Emerging Trends in FTAs and Public Health: Investment Agreements and Intellectual Property
Friday, 28 May 2021 – 16:00-17:30 (CET)
The inclusion of TRIPS-Plus provisions in developing country IP laws, as a result of negotiations of free trade agreements (FTAs) continues to be of concern. In addition, there are various emerging areas that require attention from developing countries, where accumulated knowledge and institutional learning are more limited. These include investment agreements that include ‘intellectual property’ as a category of investment – with subsequent ISDS mechanisms, as well as competition and investment chapters or agreements that may restrict the policy space, such as the China-EU Comprehensive Investment Agreement. There are several important developments to consider for the upcoming years. New negotiations in the period of Covid-19 crisis, when countries are in dire financial situations, may lead to even more unbalanced negotiations. The UK is pursuing new agreements after Brexit with developing countries, while the USA has signaled renewed attention to multilateralism and at the same time is continuing to make use of Section 301 of its trade law to advance reforms in third countries. The AfCFTA negotiations of the intellectual property chapter are set to start this year. Moreover, the RCEP Agreement is to be implemented via national law amendments and attention must be given in particular to the process for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the technical assistance offered.
In this context, the South Centre is holding a series of webinars on emerging trends related to free trade agreements (FTAs) and investment agreements that impact public health. In this first session, we will discuss the topic of investment agreements and intellectual property, including varied angles to the issue, such as perspectives for post Covid-19 agreements, the legal construction of IP as a category of investment, the challenges of ISDS and policy reform options, and the analysis of a concrete case.
Misappropriation of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge: Challenges Posed by Intellectual Property and Genetic Sequence Information
By Nirmalya Syam and Thamara Romero
Improper acquisition of genetic resources (GRs) and associated traditional knowledge (TK) without prior informed consent and on mutually agreed terms, in accordance with national laws of the country providing the GR and associated TK, as well as without any fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from their utilization, has been a significant concern for developing countries. Intellectual property (IP) rights can serve as one of the means of such misappropriation. One of the mechanisms sought by developing countries to prevent it consists in the establishment of an effective multilateral legal mechanism for defensive protection against misappropriation, primarily through the introduction of a mandatory disclosure requirement about the source and country of origin of such resources in intellectual property right (IPR) applications. These negotiations have been taking place in different fora. However, there is an increased sense of frustration due to the lack of progress in achieving consensus during the last twenty years. Meanwhile, new modes of misappropriation of GRs are evolving through the use of genetic sequence information and data of GRs, and by applying technological developments in synthetic biology. This paper discusses the use of IP and genetic sequence information and data as modes of misappropriation of GRs and associated TK and the deficits of the current international legal framework in preventing such misappropriation. This paper also maps the state of play of the ongoing negotiations in the context of these issues in different fora, and, in conclusion, proposes possible alternative approaches for addressing these pressing issues at the multilateral level.