World Trade Organization (WTO)

SC Statement to the COP27, 16 November 2022

27th CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES (COP27) OF THE UNFCCC

STATEMENT OF DR.  CARLOS CORREA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE SOUTH CENTRE

We all are aware of the magnitude of the climate crisis the world is facing. We are also aware that its impact is not the same for all countries and populations. The disasters we are witnessing affect most severely developing countries which historically have not been responsible for the emissions that put at risk the life in the planet. Those countries, the most affected, have the lowest capacity to address the devastating effects of climate change events and to adapt to and mitigate them.

Climate change is a cross-cutting issue. However, the international system operates in silos and has been incapable of ensuring the adoption of the multiple and coordinated policies necessary to address it. The South Centre, as an intergovernmental organization of developing countries, attaches particular importance to and focuses its work on the intersection of climate change policies with other policy frameworks.

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Research Paper 169, 8 November 2022

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.

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Research Paper 168, 28 October 2022

TRIPS Flexibilities and Access to Medicines: An Evaluation of Barriers to Employing Compulsory Licenses for Patented Pharmaceuticals at the WTO

By Anna S.Y. Wong, Clarke B. Cole, Jillian C. Kohler

Under Articles 31 and 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement, WTO members may validly sanction the use of a patented invention without the patent owner’s authorization by issuing a compulsory license (CL). In the pharmaceuticals space, governments have historically employed compulsory licenses to compel originator manufacturers to license their patents to generic manufacturers before patent expiry, increasing the supply and reducing the price of patented pharmaceuticals domestically.

This paper evaluates the three primary barriers to employing compulsory licenses for pharmaceuticals underscored by members during TRIPS waiver discussions at the WTO: (1) a lack of enabling domestic legislation, (2) a lack of domestic manufacturing capacity coupled with an unworkable Article 31bis importation system, and (3) consistent political pressure from other members to refrain from issuing compulsory licenses. A survey of members’ domestic compulsory license legislation finds that virtually all members have enacted enabling legislation under Article 31 for the issuance of compulsory licenses to supply their local markets. However, implementation of Article 31bis is limited by a lack of enabling compulsory license export legislation, streamlined administrative processes, or both across all members, preventing members lacking domestic manufacturing capacity from importing pharmaceuticals. An analysis of USTR Special 301 Reports from 1994-2021 further reveals that countries have consistently been placed on the Special 301 Report Priority Watch List for issuing pharmaceutical compulsory licenses, with instances as recent as 2020. As such, general reluctance by members to issue compulsory licenses due to overt political pressure through the Special 301 Report is likely warranted. These results highlight a range of barriers preventing the full use of compulsory licenses for pharmaceuticals under the current Article 31 and 31bis framework, with the effects disproportionately borne by member states lacking domestic manufacturing capacity.

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Key Messages from UNCTAD & SC HLM on S-S Solidarity on Adaptation, 25 October 2022

Key Messages from the High-level meeting organized by UNCTAD and South Centre on Building South-South Solidarity on Climate Adaptation

Geneva, 25 October 2022

Drawing on the discussions from the meeting organised by UNCTAD and South Centre on 25th October 2022 on “Building South-South Solidarity for Climate Adaptation”, UNCTAD and South Centre believe that South-South solidarity is indispensable to ensure the needed international support for the Global South to break the eco-development trap, strengthen their climate adaption capacities, and achieve sustainable development. UNCTAD and South Centre therefore urge developing countries to build South-South solidarity and common positions in climate negotiations in the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement as well as in the trade and environment discussions at the WTO and other multilateral fora.

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Research Paper 166, 6 October 2022

Lessons From India’s Implementation of Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health

By Nanditta Batra

The major bone of contention between the developed and developing countries in the TRIPS negotiations was patents for pharmaceuticals. The US-led developed countries bloc argued in favour of patents for pharmaceuticals amidst opposition from Brazil, India and other countries. Ample evidence, including patented AZT for HIV/AIDS treatment, showed that patents could make life saving drugs prohibitively expensive. Notwithstanding the effect of patents on access to medicines, Article 27 of the TRIPS Agreement ordained patents for inventions “in all fields of technology”. While the genie was out of the bottle in the form of patents for pharmaceuticals, the developing countries were able to extract some procedural and substantive flexibilities like transition period, parallel importation and compulsory licensing to leverage the IP system to further public health. However, there was uncertainty with respect to the interpretation of TRIPS agreement, scope of the flexibilities and Member States’ rights to use them. It is in this background that the historic Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health assumed importance as it reaffirmed the rights of the Member States to take measures to protect public health, reconciled the interpretative tensions in the text of TRIPS Agreement and clarified the scope of some of the flexibilities and attempts to find solutions to the problems faced by countries that do not have sufficient manufacturing facilities. The Declaration which was initially dismissed by some scholars as “non-binding,” “soft law” has been held by WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to constitute a “subsequent agreement” which must be followed in interpreting the provisions of TRIPS Agreement (Australia-Tobacco Plain Packaging Case).

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Webinar: The Future of TRIPS, 11 October 2022

Webinar: The Future of the TRIPS Agreement (Part 2)

11 October 2022

Virtual event

Time: 10:00 – 11:30 CET

Sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic requires availability of medical technologies in all countries. To date, inequity in access continues. The interface of intellectual property and promotion of public health is central to this question. This session is a follow-up to the South Centre’s 2021 WTO Public Forum working session, which kick-started a discussion on the future of the TRIPS Agreement after the Covid-19 pandemic.

This session will bring together various stakeholders to discuss whether a reform of the TRIPS Agreement and/or authoritative interpretations of some its key provisions are needed, having in view the proposals made in response to a request for a waiver for the Covid-19 pandemic and other possible public-health oriented solutions. What are the existing limitations and opportunities within the current framework? What further actions could be taken under the WTO rules in order to promote access to medical technologies for a sustainable and equitable future?

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WTO Public Forum 2022 Working Session: Mainstreaming Development, 30 September 2022

WTO Public Forum 2022 Working Session: Mainstreaming Development in the WTO

30 September 2022

WTO Room E

Time: 11:30-12:45 CEST

The Global South has a fundamental interest in the WTO. In framing the future of trade, reforming and strengthening the organisation requires mainstreaming development in the WTO. The primary question is how to ensure that the broader development dimension of the multilateral trading system is advanced and not simply relegated to polarising conversations about special and differential treatment. This session explores ways in which the multilateral trading system can meaningfully address the needs of developing countries including LDCs. These include assessing different approaches to build greater equity in the trading regime, considering ways to improve the capacity for developing countries to benefit from trade, establishing a deeper role and voice for developing countries including LDCs in developing balanced trade rules, and examining how they can exercise their right to fully participate in the consensus-based decision-making processes of the WTO.

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Policy Brief 112, 28 June 2022

IPR-related Statistics in WTO Trade Policy Reviews

 By Peter Lunenborg

The WTO Secretariat Trade Policy Review (TPR) report is an important tool for a WTO Member which synthesizes objective trade-related information in a single document and enables the monitoring of developments in trade. Relevant statistics are therefore an important element of a TPR report.

Currently the practice of using statistical information on intellectual property rights (IPRs) across TPRs is not uniform. This Policy Brief surveys the use of IPR-related statistics in WTO TPRs with a view to exploring possible harmonization and inclusion of common information elements in future TPRs. Harmonized information would provide a baseline for comparison between countries and across time for a single country with respect to the level of IPR protection and immediate benefits derived from the creation of and trade in IPRs.

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SC Statement – TRIPS waiver, 21 June 2022

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.

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SouthViews No. 238, 20 June 2022

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.

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