WTO members welcome Quad document as basis for text-based negotiations on IP pandemic response
Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have said that the outcome document resulting from the informal process with the Quad (European Union, India, South Africa and United States) opens the prospect of textual negotiations on a response of intellectual property to COVID-19. 19.
At a General Council meeting on May 10, members welcomed the proposal as a positive development and thanked Chief Executive Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Deputy Chief Executive Anabel González, as well as the four Quad members, for their efforts to find a solution to this long-standing problem.
DG Okonjo-Iweala thanked delegations for the “constructive spirit” shown during the General Council meeting.
“Everybody is ready to come together to get an outcome based on that,” she said. “For me, that’s pretty amazing. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I think if we put our hearts into it, we can do it.”
After an impasse of more than a year in the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the text was conveyed by DG Okonjo-Iweala and shared immediately by the Chairman of the TRIPS Council, Ambassador Lansana Gberie (Sierra Leone) with all delegations, who had the opportunity to express their first views on the proposal during a formal TRIPS Council meeting May 6.
During their discussions facilitated by DG Okonjo-Iweala and in collaboration with Deputy Director General Anabel González, the Quad took a problem-solving approach aimed at identifying practical ways to clarify, streamline and simplify how governments can override patent rights, under certain conditions, to allow diversification of COVID-19 vaccine production.
While acknowledging that the proposal provided a solid basis for further discussion and could lead to a long overdue and urgently needed outcome, many delegations said that more time was needed to review the document internally before it could engage in substantive discussions. Some members noted that additional engagement is needed to assess specific issues, such as which members are eligible to benefit from the new proposal.
China announced at the meeting that it would not avail itself of the flexibilities provided by the text of the Quad waiver provided that language was used opening the benefits of the waiver to all developing members while encouraging those who have the ability to export vaccines to withdraw. China and several other members rejected a second option in the text that would restrict waiver eligibility to developing countries that exported more than 10% of global vaccine doses in 2021.