Geneva, 15 October 2021 — While the TRIPS Council meets this week in Geneva where the TRIPS Waiver is being discussed, it is reported (by HuffPost) that the European Union (EU) has worked on a document as another attempt to counter the Waiver proposal being led by India and South Africa and supported by more than 100 countries. An additional leaked document with the recent talking points of the European Commission Director General for Trade, reveals the continued denial and blockage by the EU of the Waiver proposal.
As per MSF analysis, the new leaked EU document again focuses only on compulsory licensing on patents and does not address legal barriers related to regulatory data and trade secrets, which are critical to start rapid production by alternate manufactures, particularly in view of originator companies refusing to share their technologies. It focuses on products, but completely excludes mention of underlying technologies, components, raw materials, process and methods that are also protected under intellectual property (IP) and are equally important to initiate production by other companies. The document would still require each country to individually file and apply compulsory licenses on each component, product, etc. making required international collaboration difficult and the risk of being sued by IP-holding companies.
Previously, the EU submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) General Council in June recommending reliance on compulsory licenses to ensure access to COVID-19 medical tools. As per MSF’s analysis, the EU’s proposal in June was weak and distracting, bringing nothing significantly new to the table and diluting some of the existing public health flexibilities already being enjoyed by WTO members. While the EU keeps reiterating that the TRIPS waiver would be counterproductive for the sharing of technologies, reality shows the opposite where, in the absence of a waiver, companies are refusing to widely share technologies with able producers in low- and middle-income countries.
Dimitri Eynikel, EU Policy Advisor for MSF's Access Campaign:
“The EU is trying to repackage its counterproposal first put forward in June as a ‘waiver’. This leaked document may create a false image of the EU being constructive and participating in text-based negotiations on the TRIPS waiver proposal. In reality, it leads to more confusion and diverts attention from the original TRIPS Waiver proposal.
“The EU is again putting forward a misleading idea that in no way provides the comprehensive removal of intellectual property barriers that is needed to open the door for broad global production of lifesaving COVID-19 medical tools. The EU’s document mostly regurgitates the elements of its previous proposal which have been considered as insufficient, rather than proposing the sort of bold action that is required in the face of a global pandemic that has killed almost five million people.
“The world map that shows where people have and don’t have access to COVID-19 medical tools makes it painfully clear that relying on pharmaceutical corporations’ voluntary actions is not working and has failed most of the world in this pandemic. It’s time for the EU to stop with the stall and derail tactics and finally relent by letting the will of over 100 countries prevail in the name of truly putting people’s lives over corporate profits -- it’s time for the EU to support the real TRIPS Waiver. With the WTO Ministerial Conference fast approaching, we need a bold and real waiver as proposed by South Africa and India, and co-sponsored by 62 other countries, to be adopted. Nearly 5 million people have died of COVID-19, how much longer before the EU budges from its indefensible and hard-line pro-pharmaceutical profit position and moves to recognising the rights of all governments in the interest of public health?”