Dear brothers,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to thank WIPO and DG Daren Tang for hosting us today and for hosting this Trilateral Symposium. Let me also join him in thanking all of you (both those who are here and online) for joining us today and welcoming our distinguished keynote speaker, Dr Salim.

It's always a pleasure to combine forces with my brothers, Dr Tedros and Daren, and to build on our partnership to make trade and intellectual property stronger tools for achieving global health objectives.

This is the first such trilateral seminar since 2019, for reasons that have been mentioned, so it is well-fitting we will be focusing today on the hard lessons we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and our response to it, and on how we can do better in the future.

Throughout the most acute phases of the pandemic, at the WTO we witnessed how trade and trade policy were directly impacting timely access to COVID-19 countermeasures, as well as the development and large-scale manufacturing of specific products such as vaccines.

For all the finger-pointing at trade, the reality that became clearer as the crisis evolved was one of mutual interdependence and shared interests. Global networks and new technology partnerships helped spur the development of pandemic products at unprecedented speed. Billions of people received vaccines relying on inputs from 12, 15, and 19 countries. Trade facilitation measures and export controls, regulatory requirements, government procurement practices, tariffs and other trade measures all had a direct bearing on the pace of vaccine production and the breadth of access. Voluntary licensing agreements and international initiatives, such as COVAX, the Medicines Patent Pool and the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, helped accelerate and diversify access and manufacturing.

Yet at the same time we also saw stark, indefensible global inequities in access to lifesaving products. Vaccinating the world was a moral, practical, and economic imperative, but despite the remarkable achievements I mentioned earlier, we fell short as a global community. We had people waiting at the end of the queue, and that was not acceptable.

So today we need today to engage in a frank, inclusive and empirically grounded dialogue about how global trade and intellectual property rules contributed to what went well and what did not. This will help lay the foundation for a better response to future global health crises.

This forward agenda needs to cover equitable access to health technologies, regulatory cooperation and coherence, transfer of technology and know-how, geographically diversified and sustainable manufacturing capacities — totally agree with Daren on that — as well as well-functioning global supply chains.

We need to keep making more effective use of the intellectual property system — this means addressing questions concerning the incentives provided by IP rights, the entitlement of governments to limit the exclusive effects of these rights especially in times of crisis, and the diverse licensing arrangements and partnerships that contribute to technology diffusion and more equitable access.

WTO members have been working to address these issues throughout the pandemic. At the 12th Ministerial Conference this past June, their efforts culminated in two multilateral instruments.

First, a Ministerial Declaration on the WTO response to COVID-19 and preparedness for future pandemics established a forward agenda for WTO bodies as well as for wider international cooperation on trade-related issues integral to better pandemic response.

And second, the Ministerial Decision on TRIPS provided a platform for Members to work together to diversify COVID-19 vaccine production capacity through a targeted waiver and clarifications that address IP-related issues some Members had identified as barriers. Members are still debating whether to extend this hard-won compromise to diagnostics and therapeutics. That conversation is live, and it is not easy.

At the WHO, member States are negotiating an international pandemic instrument, covering ground that includes its relationship with WTO and WIPO agreements. Views may differ on specific details, but what matters more is the common resolve to establish sustainable, inclusive and effective solutions to deal with future health crises. These solutions should reap the benefits of cooperation, complementarity and coherence across the international system — the kind of benefits epitomized by the longstanding cooperation among our three agencies. This trilateral initiative has over the years produced a valuable set of policy tools, including these symposia, technical workshops on issues of the day, the Trilateral Study on Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation, and tailormade capacity building for governments. Earlier this year, we launched a trilateral Technical Assistance Platform to support Member governments seeking tailored technical assistance in dealing with the mix of health, trade and IP issues.

I want to thank again our host Daren and my brother Dr Tedros for their collaborative spirit, which has been so important in advancing our responses to the pandemic. I think this collaboration should be highlighted. It is so seamless and so easy that when we do get together we sometimes do not know when to stop. We forget about the time. Let me once again thank our wonderful teams that have done all this work. We would not be speaking if we did not have very strong deputies and strong support from our colleagues that put all this together. So thank you so much, and I want to thank all our friends at WIPO for making this happen.

I wish you all a very inspiring day. Thank you.



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