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.
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 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.
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.
The WTO TRIPS Waiver Should Help Build Vaccine Manufacturing Capacity in Africa
By Faizel Ismail
The current global health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has re-focused our attention on the inadequacy of the TRIPS agreement and the patent system to address global public health crises. This time, developing countries must ensure that the TRIPS waiver succeeds in creating the impetus for the building of manufacturing capacity in the poorest countries, especially in Africa, for vaccines, pharmaceuticals and other health technologies. This is the only effective way in which African countries can reduce their dependence on imports of essential medicines and build their health security, contributing to the achievement of the sustainable development goals, for the poorest countries.
The author posits that the global public health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic along with the economic and distributional aspects of vaccines and treatments, involves a market failure without the underlying institutional safety nets for an effective, globally coordinated response. He proposes strong, self-standing institutions with clear mandates and resources to make effective interventions at three levels: political, financial and regulatory. Also, the WTO rules regarding export restrictions are at present too accommodative to allow for a quick response. For Intellectual Property, both manufacturing and licensing, and relaxation of IP rules should be considered.
UNCITRAL Working Group III: Moving forward towards consensus or loosing balance?
By Daniel Uribe and Danish
This policy brief considers some concerns arising from the ongoing discussions on procedural reform of investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group III. It highlights the need to allocate sufficient time to deliberate upon the important issues being raised by developing countries. It further discusses some structural reform options that have been identified by the Working Group and reflects on some concerns arising from a possible ‘single undertaking’ approach being implemented through a future possible multilateral agreement on ISDS.
Statement by the South Centre on the extension of the transition period for LDCs under the TRIPS Agreement
The TRIPS Council decision to extend the TRIPS transition period for LDCs until 1 June 2034 confirms their right to an extension but it regrettably does not meet the scope and duration that the LDCs requested. Read our statement …
Interpreting the Flexibilities Under the TRIPS Agreement
By Carlos M. Correa
While the TRIPS Agreement provides for minimum standards of protection of intellectual property, it leaves a certain degree of policy space for WTO members, whether developed or developing countries, to implement the Agreement’s provisions in different manners, to legislate in areas not subject to the minimum standards under the Agreement, and to develop legal interpretations of such provisions to determine the scope and content of the applicable obligations. This paper focuses on some aspects of how panels and the Appellate Body of the WTO have interpreted said provisions. The paper also draws general conclusions for the implementation of TRIPS flexibilities, which are of crucial importance for the design of a pro-competitive intellectual property system and, in particular, for achieving public health objectives, as specifically recognized by the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.
Propiedad intelectual y acceso a medicamentos: una introducción a cuestiones clave – algunos términos y conceptos básicos
Por Germán Velásquez
La propiedad intelectual y las patentes en particular se han convertido en uno de los temas más debatidos sobre el acceso a los medicamentos, desde la creación de la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC) y la entrada en vigor del Acuerdo sobre los Aspectos de los Derechos de Propiedad Intelectual relacionados con el Comercio (ADPIC). Las patentes no son de ninguna manera las únicas barreras para el acceso a medicamentos que salvan vidas, pero pueden desempeñar un papel significativo, o incluso determinante. Durante el período de protección de la patente, la capacidad del titular de la patente para determinar los precios, en ausencia de competencia, puede hacer que el medicamento resulte inalcanzable para la mayoría de las personas que viven en los países en desarrollo. Este primer número de los “Materiales de capacitación del South Centre” pretende, en su primera parte, ofrecer una introducción a cuestiones clave en el ámbito del acceso a los medicamentos y la propiedad intelectual. La segunda parte describe y define algunos términos y conceptos básicos de esta área relativamente nueva de las políticas farmacéuticas, que son los aspectos comerciales de los derechos de propiedad intelectual que regulan la investigación, el desarrollo y el suministro de medicamentos y las tecnologías sanitarias en general.