Submission by the South Centre to the USITC hearing on Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics
India, South Africa and co-sponsors made a proposal for a waiver to certain provisions of the provisions of the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in March 2020. In June 2022, the WTO Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement provided a partial waiver to obligations in Article 31, namely an exception to the 31.f export restrictions, in relation to patents for Covid-19 vaccines. No decision has yet been made with respect to diagnostics and therapeutics for Covid-19.
In this context, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) requested the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) to prepare a report on Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.
Read below the submission by the South Centre to the USITC investigation: COVID-19 Diagnostics and Therapeutics: Supply, Demand, and TRIPS Agreement Flexibilities (Inv. No. 332-596).
South Centre Statement on the extension of the TRIPS waiver for diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19
Developing countries should consider options that can be implemented now to deal with IP barriers to expand production and access to COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics, while the so far elusive decision on whether to extend a TRIPS waiver to cover these products is taken by WTO.
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.
The WTO TRIPS Decision on COVID-19 Vaccines: What is Needed to Implement it?
By Carlos M. Correa and Nirmalya Syam
The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference adopted a Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement on 17 June 2022. This partially concluded almost two years of protracted discussions in response to a proposal by India and South Africa for a waiver from certain obligations under the TRIPS Agreement for health products and technologies for the prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19. The adopted Decision only waives the obligation under article 31 (f) of the TRIPS Agreement. Developing country WTO members are now allowed to export any proportion of vaccines, including ingredients and processes, necessary for the COVID-19 pandemic that are manufactured under a compulsory license or government use authorization to other developing countries. It also contains some clarifications of relevant TRIPS provisions, while introducing a number of conditionalities that are not present in the TRIPS Agreement. This paper examines the object and scope of the Decision, the requirements established for its use, and the required actions to be taken by WTO members to implement it.