Brussels, 10 June 2021 – In a welcome move, the European Parliament has voted favourably with a majority of 92 votes to pass a critical resolution to support text-based negotiations on a temporary waiver proposal — the ‘TRIPS waiver’ which is being discussed at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The resolution calls for revisiting the global framework for intellectual property (IP) rights for future pandemics; and supports proactive, constructive and text-based negotiations for a temporary waiver of the WTO TRIPS Agreement, aiming to enhance global access to affordable COVID-19-related medical products and to address global production constraints and supply shortages.
To date, the EU had refused to engage in productive discussions on the waiver proposal, insisting that countries resort to using an existing public health measure — ‘compulsory licensing’ to override patents product by product — to facilitate the production of individual COVID-19 medical tools rather than a waiver that addresses the major IP barriers up front.
More recently, the EU has submitted a counter-proposal to the WTO (IP/C/W/680) focusing on compulsory licensing and merely reiterating the existing rules. While MSF has been a long supporter and advocate of compulsory licenses, the mechanism is slow, complicated and insufficiently adapted to address the IP challenges on medical products in a global pandemic.
Yesterday, at the TRIPS Council meeting at the WTO, members agreed to engage in a text-based process on the ‘TRIPS waiver’ first proposed by South Africa and India in October 2020 and now sponsored by 63 WTO members. The next General Council meeting is scheduled for 21-22 July.
Dimitri Eynikel, EU Policy Advisor for MSF's Access Campaign
“We welcome this constructive move by the European Parliament directing the European Union to enter into text-based negotiations on the ‘TRIPS waiver’. The resolution passed by the Parliament not only reflects increasing support for this waiver but also validates that the European Commission’s counter proposal to the WTO on the use of compulsory licensing in this pandemic is not fit for purpose. It is now of the utmost importance that countries at the WTO agree on the details of this waiver proposal and adopt it as quickly as possible. In this surging pandemic, we cannot afford to waste any more time.”