EU Statement at the Trade Negotiations Committee/Heads of Delegation meeting, 25 June 2021
The response to the pandemic should be holistic and cover the three keep areas of keeping open supply chains for essential health products, support the expansion of productions and ensuring that the intellectual property regime supports the expansion of production, while keeping incentives for innovation. Fully concur that the more vaccines are provided, the more lives are saved – question is what is the most effective way to achieve that.
Together with many other WTO members, we have cosponsored a proposal for a Trade and Health Declaration. We are currently working with cosponsors in updating the text. The text should be seen as an input for a Ministerial Declaration at MC12. We look forward for a process led by Ambassador Walker that brings together different contributions and helps us to build consensus.
We are also proactively engaging in text-based discussions on how intellectual property can contribute to our common goal of ramping up production of and ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and medicines. We have tabled a proposal for a draft General Council declaration that aims at facilitating the use of compulsory licenses in the context of a pandemic.
Our proposal is a genuine response to address the shortcomings that several Members have identified for compulsory licensing in the past, while now being told that it is just “tried but failed medicine”. The problem with the alternative intellectual property medicine is that it is unlikely to solve the shortages of vaccines but rather negatively impact on the ability to develop effective medicines for the future.
Our proposal aims at being effective, targeted and pragmatic. We are working with other in the TRIPS Council are challenging and we must find areas of convergence on the points that can deliver results. This should be our priority.
Secondly, on agriculture, and as we have expressed before, the EU strongly believes that a positive, but realistic contribution is critical so that MC12 can deliver on the wider efforts for the much-needed reform of the organisation. We must avoid another failure like the one at MC11. That would risk spilling over from agriculture to the whole agenda.
The recent report “Way forward towards MC12” issued by the Chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session, Ambassador Abraham Peralta, shows that it is high time to work together where there is common ground in order to make MC12 successful for agriculture. This report is a fair and balanced assessment of the situation in agricultural negotiations.
The EU sees the possibility of a realistic tangible outcome focused on export restrictions, including the World Food Programme decision, and transparency improvements across the board.
The EU intends to submit in July a formal proposal for a MC12 decision on transparency improvements across the board in agriculture. The pandemic has shown the importance of greater transparency and predictability of agricultural trade and support, so this fits well within a food security agenda indicated by the WTO DG as a priority for MC12. The proposal aims to streamline current obligations where possible and balance the administrative burden with the usefulness of the information required.
The EU agrees that transparency alone is not enough. Still, substantive outcomes on long-standing issues such as on domestic support including public stockholding (or market access) are simply out of reach in the run-up to MC 12. Positions are too far apart. Members should use the current momentum to agree on a post-MC12 work programme on trade distorting domestic support including public stockholding, which would set the direction of future work without predefining outcomes.
Finally, a top priority remains to find a lasting solution to the current Appellate Body situation that would restore a fully functioning dispute settlement in the WTO.WTO Members have a shared responsibility to resolve this issue as soon as possible. A fully functioning WTO dispute settlement system is critical for rules-based trade.
It is clear that important reforms will be needed. It is clear also that it would not be realistic to expect concrete outcomes or solutions by MC12.
However, a lack of any progress concerning one of the core functions of the WTO would cast doubt on the credibility of the reform agenda and of the WTO itself.
Our expectation would therefore be that we would converge by MC12 on a time-limited work programme to agree on a package of reforms of the WTO dispute settlement system. This process would focus on issues that need to be resolved to overcome the impasse over Appellate Body appointments. The objective would be to have a fully functioning Appellate Body within a defined time period (and in any event no later than by MC13).