“AFTE committed to taking part in the ITC investigation and urged others to do the same in order ‘to ensure that the report the ITC ultimately produces accurately reflects the facts on the ground.'”
A number of lower-income countries (LMICs) on Tuesday, December 6, proposed new text to the World Trade Organization (WTO) urging them to adopt it and proceed with an extension of the waiver of IP rights for COVID-19-related technologies under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP Rights (TRIPS). The text was sent following the United States’ announcement on the same day that it supports a delay of the deadline to decide whether to extend the waiver to diagnostics and therapeutics pending an International Trade Commission investigation that the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has ordered.
Industry groups have since weighed in, including the Alliance for Trade Enforcement (AFTE), which said that “numerous delegations…have noted the lack of evidence of any need to expand the TRIPS waiver.” The statement underscored that the Mexican and Swiss governments recently communicated to the WTO their skepticism of an extension, asking for more data and noting that “138 voluntary licensing agreements have afforded patients in more than 127 countries access to COVID-19 therapeutics. Across the globe, supply of therapeutics greatly exceeds demand.”
“AFTE believes there is already a robust factual record that provides ample reason for USTR to oppose expanding the TRIPS waiver to therapeutics and diagnostics,” the AFTE statement said. However, the organization committed to taking part in the ITC investigation and urged others to do the same in order “to ensure that the report the ITC ultimately produces accurately reflects the facts on the ground.”
But Piotr Kolczynski, EU policy advisor to Oxfam and the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said that civil society groups warned at the time of the initial decision on waiver that “the parameters of the agreement would only be useful for manufacturing treatments and tests, not vaccines.” Thus, the Alliance argues, the extension is the only aspect of the deal that was reached that will have any real impact and said a decision on that point “should not require months of negotiations.”
The Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) also weighed in on extending waiver this week, showing support for the decision to delay and investigate further. IPO Executive Director Jessica Landacre said: “IPO remains committed to communicating that there is no evidence that the existing IP framework is an obstacle to distribution of the measures needed to combat COVID-19 but that, instead, the facts show that this framework facilitates innovation, the sharing of technical information, and the manufacturing partnerships that are necessary to meet our global challenges.”
Pharma Endorses Berlin Declaration
In a separate meeting of the World Health Organization this past week, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) said that “the industry has expressed our commitment to equitable access” and has “tabled a proposal to reserve an allocation of real-time production of vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for priority populations in lower-income countries and take measures to make them available and affordable – proposed in the Berlin Declaration.”
The Berlin Declaration was proposed by IFPMA in July 2022. However, The People’s Vaccine Alliance has criticized the Declaration as being “a continuation of a consistent ‘third way’ campaign by the biopharmaceutical industry to maintain exclusive intellectual property (IP) protections and monopoly control over the medical technologies.”
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