No Mandate on Extending WTO TRIPS Agreement Decision to Medicines & Tests: The U.S.
Newsletter Edition #149 [The Curated Primer]
We bring you a brief update from the WTO General Council meeting in Geneva this week. It seems the US is set to throw a spanner in the works on extending the recent ministerial decision to therapeutics and diagnostics. Expect a busy autumn when countries will come together for yet another fight to improve access to medical products for COVID-19.
Up the hill from the WTO, last week WHO declared another Public Health Emergency of International Concern in a bid to electrify the response to the global outbreak to Monkeypox. This is significant and will prove to be a live illustration on the centrality of International Health Regulations in the governance of health emergencies.
A reminder that we will have slimmer and fewer editions in the coming weeks but we hope to bring you expert views on the fast-moving global health scene.
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I. POLICY UPDATES
The declaration of Monkey Pox as a PHEIC
1. WTO GENERAL COUNCIL (25-26 July)
The US articulates its reservations on extending waiver decision to medicines and tests
The US has expressed its reservations on extending the June Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement to medicines and tests, going beyond vaccines. At the General Council meeting this week, the US reportedly has said that WTO does not have a mandate and that the decision is limited to whether or not to extend the new rules to medicines and tests. But other countries are keen on discussing ways to adapt and negotiate an outcome so as to include medicines and tests in the scope of the new clarifications.
Geneva-based trade officials said that nearly 30 delegations took the floor to discuss the item on paragraph 8 of the decision at the meeting earlier this week. Recall that the text said: “8. No later than six months from the date of this Decision, Members will decide on its extension to cover the production and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.”
South Africa and India, the lead sponsors of the original TRIPS Waiver decision, framed the discussions urging for speed in negotiating an outcome on this item. South Africa underlined the need to extend the decision to other medical products beyond vaccines.
India reportedly lamented on the lack of urgency in resolving this decision. The text of the decision says the matter needs to be decided within six months ending December 17, 2022. The next TRIPS Council meting is now scheduled for mid-September. India reportedly pointed out that three months will have been lost since the Ministerial decision in June 2022. It also suggested that substantive discussions on therapeutics and diagnostics had already taken place during the past 20 months at the WTO. It urged that the General Council should take a decision on this, according to sources familiar with the proceedings of the meeting.
Other members including the EU indicated that they were analysing the situation and will prepare for consultations. A number of members reportedly said that they will use the weeks in the summer in Geneva to consult with delegations and prepare for consultations that will follow later in the year. UK also suggested it would engage in good faith discussions in the coming months. Cameroon took the floor on behalf of the African Group. Pakistan and Japan were among other members who took the floor.
The US said that it wants to be clear that the decision did not include a mandate but merely a deadline to conduct the conversation on paragraph 8 of the decision, according to a Geneva-based trade official.
Switzerland said it would conduct factual analysis on the matter. It also drew attention to the multiple applications of treatments and tests beyond COVID-19. It said it would look at existing licensing arrangements and conditionalities, sources said.
If countries fail to reach a decision on this, they could potentially buy more time to resolve the matter. Countries took 20 months to arrive at a decision on framing rules for a limited waiver of IP rules for vaccines, after India and South Africa first brought a proposal in October 2020 seeking an expansive waiver of rules across medical products to address COVID-19.
WTO reported: “DG Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the importance given by leaders and ministers to the TRIPS decision, in particular regarding the possible extension of the waiver compromise to diagnostics and therapeutics as COVID-19 continues to spread across world. “I look forward to the discussions. On my part, I would like to encourage delegations to work expeditiously towards a mutually agreeable solution,” she said.”
II. PODCAST CORNER
Join Global Health Matters in this podcast episode to develop a broader understanding of the future of global health through diversity and dignity.
Host Garry Aslanyan interviews guests who have a deep understanding of diversity and dignity and their application worldwide. Guests in this episode are Marie Ba and Tom Wein.
Marie Ba is from the Ouagadougou Partnership where she advocates for reproductive health and development across West and Central Africa. Ba questions whether diversity is just a tick-box exercise. She urges listeners to break down the definition and the elements that make up the term “diversity”.
Tom Wein is based in Kenya where he leads research on dignity in development with IDinsight. By analysing the two concepts of diversity and dignity together, he shows that representation is only one aspect. Agency and equality also need to be factored in to realise dignity within diversity.
Garry Aslanyan is the host and moderator of the Global Health Matters podcast. You can contact him at: email@example.com
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III. WHAT WE FOUND INTERESTING
My colleague Shoa Moosavi has put this together for you.
South Sudan - World’s First Vaccination Campaign To Control Hepatitis E Outbreak – Health Policy Watch
Canada faces criticism for visa denials undermining International AIDS Conference – The Globe and Mail
The World Can Prevent Future Pandemics. Here's How to Fund It – Council on Foreign Relations
Saving Ukrainian Lives During the Russian War: Ukraine Must Waive IP Rights under Article 73 TRIPS to Provide Access to Essential Medicines – Journal of European and International IP Law
Revisiting The Legality Of Travel Restrictions Under International Law During Covid-19 – Cambridge University Press
Committing to anti-racism reforms? Three critical building blocks for global health organizations – PLOS Global Public Health
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