WTO response to the pandemic

Now that we have this date [for the Ministerial Conference]it is important that we focus on how we take this work [responding to the pandemic] cheeky. We thought the “Walker Text” – if I can use that term, with all due respect to my colleague from New Zealand – was a decent basis to work from. It was much less ambitious than we would have liked in many ways. But it was a good base. And we thank you, Mr. President, for your efforts to move this work forward. And we really appreciate the work that the general manager has done throughout the last year to work on this issue. And above all, the cooperation between the WHO, the PMOI, the private sector and others to focus on solutions that really help us deliver vaccines to weapons.

It is also very important to recognize the work we have done over the past year, including what we have heard and learned from each other, from the private sector, from other international organizations – whether supply chains, export restrictions, transparency or even IP – and that we are working to find solutions.

We don’t think intellectual property has been a barrier to any of these efforts over the past few years. We believe that intellectual property has been a catalyst in our efforts to deal with this pandemic. We recognize that we need to find solutions and move forward – and we need to do so urgently. We need to see progress on these issues over the next few weeks and months, so that we can come to MC12 with a set of measures that really address the real-world issues we face – in this pandemic, in future pandemics and in response to the real risk of antimicrobial resistance. It requires us to work together, collaboratively, as organizations, to find solutions that will truly make a difference in the world.

Matters relating to the Council for TRIPS

Let me start by echoing my colleague. This is an organization founded on respect for the rule of law and we are confronted this morning with a situation in which international law is flouted in the most flagrant way possible.

Allow me to address the agenda item before us. You will be happy to know that I am not going to repeat once again the substance of the UK position on this issue, but allow me to endorse the comments made yesterday by others on the process.

Our debate must be informed by facts on the ground, not by politics at large. But the British government is deeply disappointed with the process that is underway here.

We were asked to wait and see what a very small and – if I may say – unrepresentative group might bring. After a few months of a fairly closed process, where our views and positions were not represented, our patience is – I fear – exhausted. I would only like to note that our taxpayers – along with many others – have helped subsidize the development of the vaccines used against this pandemic, their voluntary licensing at the Serum Institute of India, and their purchase and delivery by COVAX.

I would also like to express our frustration, as others said last night, with the lack of transparency around this process. Unfortunately, updates from the TRIPS Council have been rather spotty, infrequent, and not particularly uninformative. The updates don’t allow members to engage with the process at all, and to be honest, we often learned more from the media than from the official updates.

So let me be very clear that while we recognize the urgency of advancing our broader pandemic response discussions, we will not simply support the outcome of a process in which we are not included.

Immediate action to support the multilateral trading system in preparation for a successful MC12

This statement demonstrates a real commitment to the WTO and a positive outcome at MC12. Yesterday we agreed on a date for MC12, which will bring some much-needed focus and momentum to our discussions.

As proponents of this declaration, we believe that Members must reach agreement on the four key pillars at MC12: Health, Fisheries, Reform and Agriculture. And let’s not forget to renew the moratorium on customs duties.

The date is the starting point; we now need a clear work program to focus and guide us. We have to put the right process in place. We would welcome the DG and MC Chair to set the direction with the Chairs of each negotiating file and include Ministerial participation prior to the conference. There are also areas where we can start making progress now, ahead of MC12.

When it comes to reform, it is particularly important that we capitalize on the momentum we had before the postponement. Let’s think creatively about how we can move this forward. This is particularly true for the start of work on dispute settlement at the WTO, where we saw the ambition of members to take meaningful action.

More than ever, we need, as we have seen so starkly this week, ways to ensure that we respect the rules and international law. We also need to consider how we are progressing now on the broader reform agenda.

So, as our ambassador said, while we thought we were a week away from MC12 and with the excuses due to the intellectual property rights of our American friends, Geneva must become the city that never sleeps.

We have just over three months and some major splits that we need to bridge to guarantee a successful outcome.

We firmly believe that we can do it, and we can do it. But it will require hard work and flexibility from all of us. So, as the UK, we are ready to roll up our sleeves and look forward to hanging out with you all.

Work program on electronic commerce and moratorium on the imposition of customs duties on electronic transmissions

I would like to thank those who have added their names to the moratorium, and I would especially like to welcome Barbados on behalf of the CARICOM group [Member States of the Caribbean Community].

As others have said, the moratorium is an essential tool to support the development of global e-commerce – the digital economy – and clearly demonstrates the relevance and credibility of the WTO in the 21st century. In November last year, more than 70 global trade associations – from both developed and developing countries – called on us all to ensure the moratorium continued.

This is all the more crucial as businesses around the world look to build back better after the pandemic. We must answer their call and demonstrate that the WTO continues to support business. Indeed, I do not see how I would explain to British companies anything other than the continuation of this moratorium.

However, we recognize the importance of the work program for developing Members. We heard those calls this afternoon. The UK of course remains open to further discussions under the e-commerce work program and looks forward to further proposals from Members in this regard.

Let me just echo what others have said: that we just reached an agreement [on Domestic Services Regulation] this will reduce the costs of global trade in services by $150 billion. It is about establishing trade rules that establish new trade rules suitable for the 21st century.

An agreement which, although negotiated plurilaterally, will benefit all members of this organization and their businesses. A clear demonstration that this organization is back in business and supporting business.

And we continue to make really significant progress on a number of other joint initiatives, including: MSMEs – 99% of UK businesses; gender – 50% of the global workforce; and the environment – ​​all of us. These are the challenges of the third decade of the 21st century that this organization should tackle. These JSIs give us the means. So rather than having a conversation about how we close the door to these JSIs, we should be having a conversation about how we can welcome, support, harness and be inspired by the energy, dynamism and relevance that these JSIs bring to this organization, to our businesses and to the people we are meant to serve.