Council of TRIPs.
Norwegian Statement in regard to a proposal from Eswatini, India, Kenya and South Africa for a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPs agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of Covid-19
16 October 2020
Thank you, Madame Chair.
We would like to thank Eswatini, India, Kenya and South Africa for their proposal. Norway attaches great importance to tackling the global health challenges in the context of COVID-19, including providing access to the necessary medical products for all. To develop and produce, in sufficient amount, all necessary products, whether protected by patents or not, international cooperation is crucial and there are many strategies being employed by governments to achieve the best possible outcome.
Norway believes that the availability of medicines and other medical products in the context of covid-19 is a very important and multifaceted issue which needs a balanced and coherent approach. There is a range of factors weighing in with respect to these issues, at both the international, regional and national levels. All aspects should be considered together, not only the aspects related to intellectual property.
The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the worst health crises that the world has ever faced. Everyone is affected, but yet again we see that the most vulnerable and marginalized are disproportionately impacted. Testing, treatment and vaccines for COVID-19 should be accessible for everyone as they become available.
To achieve this objective of equitable access, Norway is heavily engaged in the ACT-Accelerator – or ACT-A. Through this partnership between governments, scientists, businesses, civil society, and philanthropists and global health organizations Norway is a member of COVAX where we have pledged approximately USD 25 million (230 million NOK) to the COVAX AMC to secure fair access to vaccines for low income countries. Together with President Ramaphosa of South-Africa, our Prime Minister Solberg is co-chairing the ACT-A Facilitation Council where we are working to raise the necessary political awareness and finances for ACT-A. Equitable access is a top political priority for us and we hope to partner with all of you to make it a reality.
Likewise, the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) will compile, in one place, pledges of commitment made under the Solidarity Call to Action to voluntarily share COVID-19 health technology related knowledge, intellectual property and data. Norway supports voluntary mechanisms for sharing of patents and we would like to encourage private companies to share COVID-19 related knowledge and patents during the pandemic. Some companies have come forward with voluntary licenses or pledged not to invoke their patent rights during the pandemic.
The TRIPS Agreement provides for minimum standards of IPR protection, while at the same time providing for the possibility of compulsory licensing of patents under the conditions set out in the agreement, which particularly aim at providing flexibility in situations of national emergencies and extreme urgency such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, this is already catered for by the TRIPS Agreement.
A balanced and coherent approach requires that both the incentives for the development of new medicines and medical products to tackle covid-19 provided by the availability of intellectual property rights protection – as well as the need for national flexibilities to make exceptions in extreme situations, must be taken into account. The WTO system is in our view already reflecting the required balance in this respect.
To introduce even further and very broad exceptions related specifically to COVID-19 as proposed, seemingly opening for providing no IPR protection at all for covid-19 related products under the discretion of national authorities, would mean a setback for the incentives for innovation in the field of medicines and medical products related to COVID-19, as well as it would provide legal uncertainty with respect to what the relationship would be between such derogation provisions and the already existing provisions on compulsory licensing in TRIPS.
Against this background, Norway believes that the already existing flexibilities of the TRIPS Agreement are sufficient, and cannot support the current proposal.
Thank you, Madame Chair