World Trade Organization (WTO)

Policy Brief 89, March 2021

Competition Regulation in Healthcare in South Africa

By Hardin Ratshisusu

South Africa’s nascent competition regulatory regime is coming of age and has potential to address historical market concentration challenges previously enabled by the apartheid regime, prior to its dismantling in the 1990s. Many sectors of the economy are highly concentrated, including the private healthcare sector, with market outcomes that breed market failures, lack of competitiveness and high cost of care. Looking through competition in the healthcare sector it becomes evident that the market structure challenges do not only require domestic interventions, but also a global response to address some policy and regulatory gaps.

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Policy Brief 88, March 2021

Need for Extension of the LDC Transition Period Under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement Until Graduation and Beyond

By Nirmalya Syam

Least developed country (LDC) Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have submitted a duly motivated request for the extension of the transition period under Article 66.1 of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which exempts LDCs from implementing the obligations for protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights under the Agreement, in view of their vulnerabilities, special needs, economic, administrative and financial constraints, and the need for a sound and viable technological base. This request, submitted prior to the expiry of the current transition period on 1 July 2021, seeks a further extension for as long as those Members remain LDCs, and also for an additional period of 12 years after their graduation. This request is legitimate in view of the varied challenges that LDCs face, which have been aggravated through the reversal of development gains due to the public health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These vulnerabilities will also continue to afflict the LDCs even after graduation, as recognized in several reports by different United Nations (UN) agencies as well as resolutions of the UN General Assembly. Therefore, WTO Members must display political will and translate global solidarity pledges into action and unconditionally support the request for extension of the transition period for LDCs under the TRIPS Agreement.

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Research Paper 129, March 2021

The TRIPS waiver proposal: an urgent measure to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccines

by Henrique Zeferino de Menezes

Despite multilateral commitments and political statements of solidarity and cooperation to guarantee the availability and access to COVID-19 vaccines (and other relevant technologies for control and treatment), the scenario after the beginning of vaccination is marked by the deepening of vaccine nationalism, the concentration of inputs and vaccines production, and the uneven distribution of options of vaccine doses already approved for use. This pattern of production restrictions and unequal access will lead to an increase in international inequalities, leaving a large part of the world to have access to vaccines not until 2024. While advanced purchase agreements (APAs) among pharmaceutical companies and some developed countries are multiplying, the proposed mechanisms for voluntary licensing of technologies and the COVAX Facility do not achieve their goal of democratizing access to vaccines. In this sense, the current TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver proposal seems to be the political and institutional response with the greatest potential to guarantee the scaling of the production of pharmaceutical inputs, allowing the adoption of a comprehensive strategy to ensure timely, sufficient, and affordable access to all technologies developed to fight COVID-19.

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SouthViews No. 213, 23 February 2021

Access to Medical Equipment in a Pandemic Situation: Importance of Localized Supply Chains and 3D Printing

By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD

The response to the COVID-19 crisis highlighted the weaknesses of the free trade system and failures of the traditional supply chains. Public health preparedness for future pandemics demands nation-states to increase their local production of medical supplies in order to reduce their dependence on third countries. Globally connected local production, enabled by digital fabrication tools, is arguably the best policy response to collaboratively address supply-chain vulnerabilities. 3D printing technology, which is the most prominent manifestation of digital fabrication ecosystems, can play a key role in enhancing the local production capacity in a time- and cost-efficient manner. This paper calls for an increased focus on local production and proposes a more systematic use of 3D printing capabilities to address shortages of critical medical equipment in a health emergency.

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South Centre Semester Report, July-December 2020

South Centre Semester Report, July-December 2020

This Semester Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st July to 31 December 2020. 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 made.

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SouthViews No. 212, 28 January 2021

The Right to Development and its Role in International Economic Law

By Olasupo Owoeye

This paper provides a brief discussion on the right to development and examines some of the criticisms often raised against its significance as a cognizable human right. The paper argues that the principles encapsulated in the right to development represent the foundational principles of the international legal order. The right to development is therefore both a human right and an economic right. Thus, the principles it embodies are not only incorporated into the International Bill of Human Rights, they are also well reflected in World Trade Organization agreements and the field of international economic law. The paper argues that the right to development can play an important role in the interpretation and enforcement of rights under international economic law.

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SC Document, January 2021

Global Cooperation Instead of Confrontation

By Peter Lunenborg and Fernando Rosales

The world faces many challenges besides the current coronavirus pandemic, including hunger, environmental destruction, climate change, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and rising inequality. Global cooperation is necessary to address these challenges and, in some areas, the global community is responding to them. Calls to form a coalition against a particular country, such as from the United States towards China, divert attention from the problems the world is facing and hamper progress in addressing these global challenges. History taught us that the best way to resolve our differences and to move forward is through dialogue and cooperation, not confrontation.

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Research Paper 125, December 2020

Designing Pro-Health Competition Policies in Developing Countries  

By Vitor Henrique Pinto Ido

Competition law and policy has become an important tool for countries to promote access to pharmaceuticals. How can countries design and enforce competition policies that are suitable to the particularities of developing countries? What are the main anti-competitive tactics in the pharmaceutical sector, and how should they be dealt with? This paper deals with these issues, taking into account the socio-economic relevance of access to health products. It finds that developing countries should apply their competition laws in the pharmaceutical sector more actively, and that there is ample policy space under international law to do so. It provides an overview of the way in which competition policies have been applied in some industrialized and developing countries and explores how such policies can be designed and implemented in the context of developing countries.

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Research Paper 122, November 2020

Analysis of the Overcapacity and Overfishing Pillar of the WTO Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations

By Peter Lunenborg

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6 asks World Trade Organization (WTO) Members to “prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing”. Hence, the pillar on overcapacity and overfishing (O&O) is the most important pillar of the fisheries subsidies negotiations. However, WTO Members have not yet agreed on the approach to prohibition. This research paper distinguishes three types of approaches: the fisheries management linked approach (sometimes referred to as effects-based approach), capping and list-based approach.

This paper argues that the core of the prohibition in the Overfishing and Overcapacity pillar should be list-based and be applicable to large scale fisheries who receive the bulk of global fisheries subsidies especially those that are capacity-enhancing. For subsidies which are not prohibited an effects-based test might be considered. A supplementary subsidy prohibition covering areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) could be considered, or the vessels or operations targeted by proponents of the ABNJ proposals could be deemed ‘large scale’. If capping remains on the table, capping subsidies per fisher could be explored.  Special and Differential Treatment should be an integral element of the outcome as developing countries whose fisheries sector are less developed should not take on the same commitments.

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Webinar: Towards Justice in the International Economic Order: Proposals from the South

Webinar: Towards Justice in the International Economic Order: Proposals from the South

This webinar is a collaboration between Afronomicslaw and the South Centre, Geneva, to mark the 25th anniversary of the South Centre. Both the South Centre and Afronomicslaw share a commitment to the protection and promotion of the development interests of countries of the Global South.

The theme of the webinar “Towards Justice in the International Economic Order: Proposals from the South” reflects this shared commitment. In particular, the webinar will focus on selected initiatives proposed by the Global South. An important premise of the webinar presentations will be that the countries of the Global South are not mere spectators in the construction of the global order. Among the issues that the webinar will discuss will be access and a development-oriented approach to the WTO TRIPS Council (including the recent waiver proposal by South Africa and India on TRIPS obligations, and attempts to reframe the e-commerce and IP agenda). It will also reflect on the soon to be launched African Sovereign Debt Justice Network (AfSDJN), relating to issues of sovereign debt that have become particularly germane in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Statement, October 2020

PROPOSAL BY INDIA AND SOUTH AFRICA TO WAIVE CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE WTO TRIPS AGREEMENT TO SUPPORT THE GLOBAL COVID-19 PANDEMIC RESPONSE

The prolongation of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic threatens developing countries disproportionately, deepening the catastrophic social and economic crisis and reversing the gains made to date to eradicate extreme poverty and meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this situation, ensuring timely access to essential commodities by overcoming acute shortages faced by countries due to high demand and disruptions in the supply chain is critical. There is also an urgent need to speed up development of new vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, at scale, and make these widely available.

As reaffirmed by many delegations in the special session of the WHO Executive Board, transfer of technology and know-how is fundamental for scaling up manufacturing of medical products and equipment. In this regard, India and South Africa have made a joint proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to support the global Covid-19 pandemic response.

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