Good afternoon colleagues,
On behalf of the European Commission, I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala for organising this timely and important event.
I am happy to share the EU perspective on how the WTO can contribute to equitable vaccine distribution worldwide.
First of all, let me say that although current increases in vaccine roll-out provide hope, we still see growing transmission numbers in many regions.
We still have lots to do to win the fight against Covid-19.
The EU is making a major contribution to expanding vaccine production.
And while we roll out vaccines to tackle the pandemic in the EU, we continue to fulfil our international responsibilities. The EU exports a great share of its production.
To date more than 100 million doses have been exported from the EU worldwide, and with a financial contribution of 2.2 billion €, Team Europe is a major donor to COVAX. We support COVAX’s aim to deliver at least 2 billion doses of vaccines by the end of this year.
We believe that to win this battle, we need to have a shared approach and shared responsibility.
This is the most effective way to increase production of vaccines and ensure an equitable distribution.
Four key priorities can guide us:
transparency, investment, cooperation, and ensuring open supply chains.
We need transparency of the production process and information about supply and demand to eliminate bottlenecks and increase production.
To this end, at EU level, the European Commission has set-up a Task Force for Industrial Scale-up of vaccine production. We have also sought greater transparency, as well as a fair and proportionate distribution of vaccines, via our temporary export transparency and authorisation system.
Lack of information is a challenge on a global scale. Companies still do not have all the necessary information about unused capacities, and whom they should form partnerships with. A listing of such facilities is an important first step.
Back in August 2020, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations did a first list of manufacturing capacity at global scale. We should build on that effort and improve it.
In terms of investment, we must be smart, and strategic.
We are all aware that global vaccine production is concentrated in a few countries. There are regions in which manufacturing capacity is not sufficient. Africa is a very clear example.
For the EU, our cooperation with Africa is a priority.
The EU supports the African Union’s efforts to attract responsible and sustainable investment. We should also support capacity-building, strengthening scientific expertise and improving regulatory frameworks.
At global level, we must bring private actors into the cooperation effort. Our meeting today is a welcome step in this direction.
Given the technical complexity of manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines, governments should facilitate broad industry co-operation, based on transfers of technology and know-how.
This is the best way to speed up supply in the EU and globally.
It is also the best way to tackle new variants of the virus.
Should voluntary solutions fail, the TRIPS Agreement already provides a framework for sharing technology through the granting of compulsory licences. This includes fast-track compulsory licences for export to countries without manufacturing capacity.
At this stage, however, there are already many examples of cooperation and voluntary licensing of intellectual property rights at global level, which we should further encourage.
As we have seen, the vaccine production process is complex and highly trade-interdependent.
Therefore, keeping supply chains open remains imperative, and the WTO can play a strong coordinating role.
To sum up, the WTO can support vaccine equity through five sets of actions:
- Promoting best practices in terms of trade facilitation and regulatory cooperation to maintain open supply chains;
- Facilitating cooperation with the private sector, both to ramp up production in the short term, and to enhance manufacturing in global regions with under-capacity, focusing in particular on Africa;
- Supporting Members’ use of the available TRIPs flexibilities;
- Continuing to seek joint approaches with the World Health Organisation and the World Intellectual Property Organisation; and
- Ensuring transparency and effective monitoring of any temporary export restriction, as proposed by the Ottawa Group.