May 6, 2022
Thank you Chair for convening this meeting.
Since this is the very first opportunity for me to speak in this Council, please allow me to extend my sincere congratulation on your appointment as the Chair of this important Council. This Council now bears the expectation of all members to deliver concrete outcomes before MC12. We believe under your leadership, we can achieve this goal.
I also thank you, Mr. Chair, and DG Dr. Ngozi for circulating the communication as well as the document earlier this week. My capital is still studying the document. Here, I would like to make three points. And we may have technical comments at a later stage. I request the secretariat to put my comments in the record of this meeting.
First, China has always been a significant contributor to the global efforts in combatting the pandemic, and a staunch supporter of TRIPS waiver on COVID-19 vaccines.
In May 2020, President Xi Jinping made a commitment that the COVID-19 vaccine under development and deployment in China will be made a global public good when it’s ready for use. One year later, China announced its support for waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, and called upon the WTO to make an early decision on this matter.
As one of the first countries hit by the pandemic, China fully understands and sympathizes with the severe challenges encountered by other developing members and LDCs. China has made its best efforts in providing vaccines to them which is a significant contribution to the global response to the pandemic. Up to now, China has provided more than 2.2 billion doses of vaccines to over 120 countries and international organizations, and realized joint production with African countries. In addition, together with other BRICS states, we made the public health and vaccines cooperation a key area of BRICS’ work this year.
We have been and will continue to actively participate in the discussions here with a view to pursuing an outcome that could enhance vaccines accessibility and affordability for developing members and LDCs.
Second, we always believe that any negotiation in this organization, including the ongoing TRIPS waiver discussion, shall be guided by the principles of openness, transparency and inclusiveness. And outcomes of the negotiations shall be fair and non-discriminatory. Otherwise, it will be difficult to build consensus among members, in particular for those who have not been involved in the process. The procedural fairness is even more relevant for the TRIPS waiver discussion which needs a proper and urgent solution as it relates to human life and livelihood. We should also avoid any hinderance to its successful outcome due to politically-motivated disturbances.
Third, we appreciate the efforts made by DG Dr. Ngozi, DDG Gonzalez and the Quad in forming the document or text, whatever we call it. China, in general, supports to have this document as a basis for further discussions and hope it would lead to a long-awaited and urgently-needed outcome, bearing in mind that Members’ key concerns, including China’s, should be properly addressed in this process.
For China, we can’t accept the second brackets of footnote 1 which uses the criterion of export share to define eligible members. Such an unreasonable and arbitrary criterion will send a wrong signal to the outside and also have systemic implication to the future negotiations. On one hand, this implies punishment to those who supplied a large amount of vaccines to others even when they themselves were suffering from shortages. On the other hand, this constitutes a tolerance or even an incentive for members to adopt inward-looking policies and apply export restrictions in difficult times when we should resist such temptations. So my question to everyone in this room is: is it a right signal that the WTO, a long-time advocate of free trade and multilateral cooperation, should be sending to the world? Should the contributions made by members during the pandemic be encouraged or discarded?
As the DG repeatedly highlighted, multilateral cooperation on trade is deadly needed to address the mounting challenges we are encountering. However, if the second brackets remains as it is, I have a serious doubt on how the long-held spirits of unity and cooperation could be preserved in this organization? Who will be willing to export critical materials to others if we are to face another pandemic in the future? And how the interest of the vulnerable economies, developing members and LDCs, could be protected?
Compared with this second brackets language, the first brackets adopt a more positive approach, i.e. to encourage developing members who have capability to opt out from this decision. This is the right direction we should work to. However, as to what I just said on export criterion, we believe a more general language to encourage developing members who are in the position to opt out can be a solution.
I know many of you are looking at China who is one of the leading producers and exporters of COVID-19 vaccines. In spite of great difficult situations China is in, I can assure you that China’s determination to make further contribution to the global pandemic response remains unchanged. Based on our proposed footnote and in line with assessment of our capability, we are willing to address the eligibility issue in a pragmatic and constructive manner, so that an outcome that benefits developing members and LDCs in genuine needs could be reached at an earliest date. We look forward to the same level of pragmatism and constructiveness from other major stakeholders to meet us half way.
Mr. Chair, let me conclude by reiterating our firm commitment to supporting your work, and our strong willingness to work tirelessly with all members to go through the dark tunnel and find the light before Ministers land at Geneva.