Canada’s Political Choices Restrain Vaccine Equity: The Bolivia-Biolyse Case
By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD
The COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed more than 4.6 million lives and caused significant economic harm. The Coronavirus is still circulating to cause further damage. In this context, this research paper argues that Canada’s political choices have restrained the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Part I evaluates Canada’s nationalistic approach of procuring COVID-19 vaccines more than its needs through secretly concluded pre-purchase agreements with brand-name pharmaceutical corporations as advised by a secretly born task force having clear ties with the vaccine industry. Part II examines Canada’s wavering and non-committal position on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Waiver proposal. Canada’s confusing position of ‘not blocking’ the TRIPS Waiver while not supporting it either lacks legal clarity. Part III analyses the Bolivia-Biolyse case which highlights clear contradictions between statements and actions of the Canadian government. Since March 2021, Biolyse Pharma has been hamstrung by the first step in Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR), where a preliminary requirement is that the COVID-19 vaccine must be added to Schedule 1 of the Canadian federal Patent Act before applying for an export-oriented compulsory licence. The Bolivia-Biolyse case is important as a test case for the CAMR system. Workability of this export-oriented compulsory licensing regime is critical for low- and middle-income countries in the Global South lacking the domestic capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. The Bolivia-Biolyse case is also important as Canada has argued at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the TRIPS Waiver is not required because the existing mechanisms are working as intended.
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.
Accelerating COVID-19 Vaccine Production via Involuntary Technology Transfer
By Dr. Olga Gurgula
This policy brief explains that the currently discussed proposals at the WTO related to increasing the production of COVID-19 vaccines, including the EU proposal to clarify the use of compulsory licensing and the submission by South Africa and India on the intellectual property (IP) waiver, require complementary mechanisms to rapidly improve the production of COVID-19 vaccines that are urgently needed today. The key problem is that to accelerate the manufac- ture of COVID-19 vaccines, access to knowledge and know-how, that are protected by trade secrets owned by several pharmaceutical companies, is required. It is therefore important that governments implement an additional mechanism of compulsory licensing of trade secrets that would allow an involuntary transfer of COVID-19 vaccine technologies. Such a mechanism would be compliant with the TRIPS Agreement and relevant whether the TRIPS waiver is adopted or not agreed upon. While this mechanism must provide full access to the information necessary to manufacture the vaccines in question, it must also ensure the protection of the transferred trade secrets.
Contribution of the South Centre to the Report of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution A/75/L.97 dated 9 June 2021 on the “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”
This input by the South Centre is prepared in response to the UN Secretary-General’s request as a contribution to the report of the Secretary-General as per resolution A/75/L.97, with respect to the imposition of unilateral economic, financial and trade measures against Cuba, in violation of basic principles of the UN Charter.
Working Session at the WTO Public Forum 2021: The Future of the TRIPS Agreement Post COVID-19
Wednesday, 29 September 2021
16h30 –17h30 CET
Disciplines on intellectual property protection are part of the multilateral trade system through the WTO TRIPS Agreement. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to bear again the tension between the protection of intellectual property rights and public health, which had been addressed in 2001 through the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public health. Having in view the TRIPS flexibilities, this session will discuss the role of interpretation, temporary waivers and amendments in dealing with such tension and what further actions could be taken under the WTO rules in order to promote access to medical products for all.
The purpose of this report is to analyse the vaccines industry under the focus of Industrial Economics as an input for the design of the pertinent instruments to promote development, manufacturing and distribution of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 in sufficient amounts to immunize all countries as soon as possible. We also need to be prepared for future emerging infectious diseases with the potential of global expansion.
The report shows that the vaccines industry is – and has been for a long time – far away from the competitive market paradigm with notorious market failures. As a result, the industry is underperforming with shortages and stockouts, exit of firms from the industry, underinvestment in research and development (R&D) and manufacturing, even an “anaemic development pipeline”, all signs of market failure.
After a brief review of policies implemented to tackle these problems we conclude that after the COVID-19 pandemic there is a need to implement a profound overhauling of the industry and to fundamentally reformulate and extend global public policies to stimulate R&D, manufacturing, distribution and access.
EU Proposals regarding Article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Nirmalya Syam
This Policy Brief presents an analysis of the proposal by the European Union (EU) with regards to Article 31bis of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), as part of a Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in the circumstances of a pandemic. It discusses the EU’s proposed clarifications, why Article31bis does not provide an effective solution to promote access to pharmaceutical products and possible options.
Virtual Consultation in support of the UN Working Group’s 2021 Report to the UN General Assembly on Human Rights-Compatible International Investment Agreements
South Centre, 23 June 2021
Foreign direct investment (FDI) should support States’ efforts to “bring the SDGs and goals of the Paris Agreement to life for all people, everywhere.” However, achievement of these objectives is slowed down in the current situation where investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms are included in international investment agreements (IIAs). These mechanisms have increased the exposure of States to claims from foreign investors against regulatory measures taken to protect and guarantee a clean and safe environment, public health, human rights, social inclusion, and poverty reduction.
In the current scenario marked by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, FDI can be a valuable source of financing a better and fairer recovery, including investment needed to achieve the full realisation of all human rights. But to achieve this potential, there is a need to reshape the international investment regime, including through the reform of its substantive rules and standards, as well as of the ISDS mechanisms embedded in existing IIAs.
The South Centre and the United Nations Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises convened a virtual consultation to identify and assess the different challenges developing countries face while negotiating or reforming IIAs in line with their international human rights obligations. The virtual consultation aimed at highlighting and discussing some of the most common concerns and challenges those developing countries face in the promotion of responsible investment practices, including an exploratory discussion about balancing the rights and obligations of investors in IIAs and safeguarding the sovereign right of States to regulate in the public interest for building back better and fairer in face of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also discussed possible reforms of the ISDS mechanism.
COVID-19 y la necesidad de una organización internacional
Velásquez, Germán: Vacunas, medicamentos y patentes. COVID-19 y la necesidad de una organización internacional. Vacunas covid-19: entre la ética, la salud y la economía. Desarrollo de la vacuna COVID-19; la inmunidad y el contagio; el nacionalismo de las vacunas; el mecanismo COVAX; licencias obligatorias; Acceso a medicamentos y vacunas: un nuevo actor. Medicamentos y propiedad intelectual: diez años de la estrategia mundial de la oms. Repensando la fabricación mundial y local de productos médicos tras el covid-19. Repensando la i+d para productos farmacéuticos después del covid-19. Propiedad intelectual y acceso a medicamentos y vacunas. Las reformas de la organización mundial de la salud en la época de covid-19. 2021. 244 pp. ISBN 978-9915-650-31-9.
Autor: Germán Velásquez, Asesor especial sobre políticas y salud, South Centre de Ginebra
The TRIPS COVID-19 Waiver, Challenges for Africa and Decolonizing Intellectual Property
By Yousuf Vawda
The intellectual property (IP) regimes of African countries are a function of their colonial past, which imposed strong protections, and which have been entrenched through the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). This has had a devastating effect on their ability to access necessary health products both before and during the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to reflect on the challenges that African countries face, before considering the implications of the WTO TRIPS waiver on COVID-19 (henceforth, waiver). In assessing the challenges faced by these countries, as well as the possibilities of improving access, this paper argues that while the waiver offers the best available solution to overcome the current supply shortages of a range of COVID-19 health products, in the longer term a break from this past—the decolonization of IP regimes—is necessary.
Malaria and Dengue: Understanding two infectious diseases affecting developing countries and their link to climate change
By Mirza Alas
Developing countries will face more complex challenges as infectious disease patterns transform due to climate change and climate variability. These challenges include how to reduce the incidence of malaria (including the significant challenge of resistant malaria), dengue, and other vector-borne and water-borne diseases that are likely to experience alterations in geographical range and lengthening of the transmission seasons due to changing temperatures and rain patterns. Climate extremes, e.g., heat and floods, are implicating the spread of climate-sensitive infectious diseases such as dengue and malaria transmitted by vectors like mosquitoes. In the context of growing financial pressure on governments due to COVID-19, the ensuing fiscal challenges may severely limit the capacity to effectively respond to health challenges in countries already affected by malaria and dengue. Other countries that have made gains in controlling vector-borne infections could also be vulnerable to rising disease burden. This research paper aims to analyze how changes in malaria and dengue pose a challenge for developing countries as they prepare mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate health. The paper will also provide some general recommendations on the importance of integration of health in national climate change strategies.
This Semester Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st January to 30 June 2021. It is intended to provide information, organized by themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the Centre’s Work Program, meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or provide analytical support for negotiations taking place in various international fora, and conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated. It also informs about publications of the outcomes of internal policy-oriented research and external contributions made as a result of cooperation with the Centre.