WTO members propose three-year TRIPS waiver
Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that are co-sponsoring the proposed TRIPS waiver for products and technologies needed to treat and prevent COVID-19 have submitted a revised draft that limits the waiver period to three years with a provision to review its duration. They reiterated that the proposed exemption is limited to the prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19.
The revised proposal was circulated by the WTO secretariat on May 21 at the request of 62 co-sponsors including India, South Africa, African Group, LDC Group, Bolivia, Egypt, Eswatini , Fiji, Indonesia, Kenya, Maldives and Mozambique, Mongolia, Namibia, Pakistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Read also: China supports India, South Africa’s proposed COVID-19 vaccine TRIPS waiver
The co-sponsors said the draft proposal had been revised to add specificity to the decision text due to concerns that the original decision text was too broad.
Regarding the rationale for adding a proposed duration paragraph in the revised text, the co-sponsors said the international community was dealing with a new pathogen, with many uncertainties. “For example, research is still ongoing to find effective therapeutics, and there are still many unknowns regarding vaccines that will affect the scale of manufacture and supply that will be required to control the pandemic, such as the duration of immunity conferred, the effectiveness of vaccines against new variants, and the effect of vaccines on children. In addition, the duration must be practical for manufacture to be feasible and viable. These complexities suggest the need of practical and flexible duration ”, they explained.
The revised proposal requires the WTO General Council to assess the existence of exceptional circumstances justifying the waiver after a minimum period of three years to determine the date of termination of the waiver. The waiver will also be reviewed by the General Council no later than one year after its granting, then annually until the waiver ends.
Read also: Piyush Goyal, U.S. Trade Representative, discusses COVID-19 vaccine production and TRIPS waiver
The revised text indicates that actions taken in accordance with the waiver provision should not be challenged by members by any means, including by approaching the WTO dispute settlement mechanism during the waiver period.
The revised proposal clarifies that the exemption will not apply to performers, producers of phonograms (sound recordings) and broadcasting organizations.
It was on October 2, 2020 that India and South Africa proposed a waiver of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19. The TRIPS Council has since had extensive discussions on the proposal, leading to the revised draft text.