African Group statement on TRIPS and public health

Following is the text of the African Group statement that was delivered at the 29 November TRIPS Council meeting.

Mr Chairman,

On behalf of the African Group, I wish to thank you for convening this meeting to advance our effort in coming up with a solution as mandated by paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. May I also thank you for your tireless commitment, dedication and patience that you have exercised in trying to assist members to reach a consensus on this issue. Your chairmanship has demonstrated the determination the Council has in getting the expeditious solution and it is the Group’s hope that it will be possible to achieve this soon. The African Group also wishes to thank members for time they have spent and the proposals they have put forward with a view to achieving the same objective.

Nonetheless, in spite of all these noble efforts to address this issue, we still feel that we are far from getting a practical and workable solution to serve the objective of paragraph 6 of the Declaration. Our observation is based on the fact that some of the proposals appear to be replacing the Declaration and adding extra obligations on members instead of addressing the difficulties identified in paragraph 6. For instance we have spent a lot of our time in defining the scope and coverage of diseases and products while the Declaration is very clear on this. Similarly we have laboured on defining which member qualifies to benefit from the solution, yet paragraph 6 of the Declaration is definitive enough.

And frankly we appear to be getting nowhere on the issue of technology transfer and domestic markets, as well as the main approach to adopting the solution.

Any further engagement in this process  must be  meaningful. Further, there is no merit in coming up with a purported solution that amounts to a step back from Doha or even that creates further restrictions on the  current  flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement as highlighted in the Declaration. In this context, the draft of 24 November represents a step back. The earlier drafts seemed to take on board our concerns and aspirations, and it was on this basis that the  Africa  Group decided to continue work on those drafts with a view to improving upon them. We are disappointed  that  instead the positive  approach in  the earlier drafts eroded especially with special reference to domestic markets and transfer of technology.

Due to the foregoing, the African Group is disappointed and frustrated by the progress made so far. The Group feels that if discussions continue on the same line as they have been conducted to date, then it is unlikely that the desired solution will be forthcoming, particularly one meant to address the public health problems afflicting Africa. Members may wish to seriously reflect on the reasons why the Africa Group raised this issue in the TRIPS Council prior to Doha and their subsequent expectations after Doha as stated in various communications to the TRIPS Council. This will probably give them a better understanding of the nature of the solution Africa expects.

Mr Chairman,

The African Group has a lot of confidence in your leadership and we are convinced that if members redouble their efforts, we will get the sought-after solution.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.      

From Third World Economics No. 295 (16-31 December 2002)