WTO TRIPS Council (February 2015): Bangladesh statement (on behalf of LDC Group)- Extension of the 2016 transitional period

On Tuesday, 24 February 2015, Bangladesh, on behalf of the LDC Group, presented the submission of the LDC Group on an Extension of the Transitional Period Under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement for LDC Members for Certain Obligations with Respect to Pharmaceutical Products in the following impassioned statement.

ANY OTHER BUSINESS

EXTENSION OF THE TRANSITION PERIOD UNDER ARTICLE 66.1 OF THE TRIPS AGREEMENT FOR LEAST-DEVELOPED COUNTRY MEMBERS FOR CERTAIN OBLIGATIONS WITH RESPECT TO PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS

Mr. Chair

I speak on behalf of the LDC group. I would like to raise one issue of extreme importance to our group under this agenda item.

Mr. Chair,

You may recall that our Ministers in Doha recognized the gravity of the public health problems afflicting many developing and least-developed countries, especially those resulting from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics. They also agreed that the TRIPS Agreement did not and should not prevent Members from undertaking measures to protect public health. While reiterating their commitment to the TRIPS Agreement, they affirmed that the Agreement could and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of WTO Members' right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all. Accordingly, WTO members adopted the decisions IP/C/25 and WT/L/478 for exempting LDCs from TRIPS obligations in respect of pharmaceutical products. These decisions are due to expire on 1 January 2016. Though we have a general TRIPS waiver up to 2021, considering the gravity of the situation of lack of access to medicine and proper health care, LDCs require time to reasonably overcome their public health problem.

Mr. Chair,

You are aware that LDCs represent the weakest and most vulnerable group of the community of nations. With deficiency and hardship touching all aspects of life, the population have been suffering from, and are highly susceptible to different forms of diseases. As a result, there are many other associated risks and impediments such as access to medicine and health services.

Access to affordable pharmaceutical products (e.g. medicines, vaccines, diagnostic kits) is a prerequisite, to deal with the numerous public health challenges facing LDCs. LDCs are home to some of the world’s most vulnerable people and they bear considerable health burdens. In 2011, some 9.7 million of the 34 million people living with HIV worldwide, lived in LDCs. Of the people living with HIV in LDCs, 4.6 million were eligible for antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in accordance with the 2010 World Health Organization HIV treatment guidelines, however only 2.5 million were receiving it. LDCs also bear increasing health burdens from non-communicable disease. For example, cancer incidence is expected to rise to 82 percent in 2030 in low-income countries compared to 58 percent in upper-middle and 40 percent in high-income countries. You may recognize that not only we lack sound and viable technological base, but we are also perpetual victims of epidemics such as the Ebola outbreak that has caused disaster in our some member countries.

Mr. Chair

According to UNAIDS, I quote, “There is concern that without extension of the transition period, access to antiretroviral therapy and other key medicines in LDCs will face real challenges”. Explaining the implications of the failure to renew the transition period beyond 2016, UNAIDS states that if the transition period is not extended beyond 2016 the situation regarding availability and pricing of HIV-related medicines will be more complex than the situation in 2001 when the Doha Declaration was adopted. The UNAIDS concludes “There is a real danger that if the LDCs do not get a further extension, the progress that has been made to improve access to HIV-related medicines in these countries will be reversed”.

It is in this context, we have recently submitted a duly motivated request for extension of transition period and waiver from certain obligation under TRIPS. Our request may be found at WTO document IP/C/W/605 dated 23 February 2015.

We would like to be constructively engaged with all WTO membership to discuss this issue with a view to reaching a consensus on our request.

I thank you.