Since the inception of the TRIPS Agreement, LDCs have benefitted from an extended transition period to apply provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, in recognition of their special requirements, their economic, financial and administrative constraints, and their need for flexibility in order to create a viable technological base. The transition period for LDC members under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement had been extended twice before (in 2005 and 2013).
The decision adopted was the result of intensive consultations over several months. Members were broadly in agreement on the principle of the extension but were unable to reach a decision due to their differences on the additional request that members graduating from LDC status should be accorded additional flexibilities under the TRIPS Agreement after their graduation.
LDCs favoured extending the transition period for as long as the member remains categorized as an LDC, and for an additional period of 12 years from the date of graduation of a member from the LDC category. A group of delegations expressed a preference for extending the period for a limited time, while others argued that a transition period for members that have graduated from LDC status went beyond the TRIPS Council's mandate under Article 66.1.
Given the lack of consensus on this latter issue, and the urgency to agree on the transition period extension, members agreed that the post-graduation element of the request would best be pursued under an LDC proposal already on the agenda of the General Council.
Under the agreed decision, LDC country members shall not be required to apply the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, other than Articles 3, 4 and 5, until 1 July 2034, or until the date when they cease to be a least developed country, whichever date is earlier.
“This important decision proves that finding consensus is still within reach for members of this organization,” said the chair of the TRIPS Council, Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli of Norway. The chair commended all delegations involved in this effort “for their sense of responsibility in finding a timely solution, for their commitment in pursuing their respective objectives, and for the flexibility and pragmatism they showed when this was necessary to close the deal.”
“It is thanks to the hard work and diplomatic acumen of these delegations that we have a draft decision before us, agreed by those most directly affected by this matter, that can once again extend the transition period for LDCs before the current period expires in just over 24 hours' time,” he added. Delegations thanked the chair for his engagement and efforts to bring members together.
On behalf of the LDC Group, Chad noted this is a compromise solution they accept with the understanding that members have also expressed their readiness to continue discussions in good faith at the General Council on the post-graduation transition period for LDCs.
In expressing their support for the extension, developed members acknowledged the unique challenges facing LDCs, which in many cases have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. They encouraged LDCs to use the transition period to build reasonable and balanced IP systems for themselves, including by availing themselves of technical assistance available from the WTO and other international organizations.
Several members expressed their satisfaction at the fact that members have demonstrated they can work together constructively to reach consensus and deliver important results. The work done by the delegations of Chad and Bangladesh, who led the LDC effort in bringing the discussion to a successful and multilateral outcome, was also commended by a large number of delegations.