Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : UK statement – World Trade Organization General Council [December 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 20 December 2023.

The UK’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and UN in Geneva, Simon Manley, delivered a statement on Ministerial Conferences at the WTO General Council (17-19 December 2023).

Item 3: Follow-up to outcomes of Ministerial Conferences

Thank you first for your thanks for our contribution to the Fish fund, and ratification of the agreement.

On reform, let me welcome the efforts of the Secretariat and all the efforts that we, the Members have put into institutional reform.

As you know, the UK (and 55 Members) presented a paper to this Committee on this very important issue. We talk about showing progress. Since MC12, we can be proud of the work we have done as an organisation, and it shows how much we can achieve if we just get on with it.

Look at the work of the Council for Trade in Goods (CTG); just one example, 120 reforms across that Committee. At the heart of that, ensuring that we build trust, and that we ensure even the very smallest delegation here can engage in our work in a way that is constructive.

On the pandemic response and TRIPs we have done some really important work on the pandemic response, following on the statement from MC12, which obviously needs to continue.

On TRIPS it is clear that the reality, despite all the discussions we have had, there is no consensus amongst Members on whether or not the extension on therapeutics and diagnostics is genuinely required. It is also true that the MC12 decision, which we spent so much time elaborating, has not been used.

So we need to think carefully about extending the value of something that does not appear to help all that much as we had hoped on the ground. So, without understanding the consequences of extending that decision we risk compromising the very international IP system that we have worked so effectively to develop, and has been, in our view, so useful to us in that pandemic response.

In our view, we need to build on the TRIPS Agreement. To build on the way it works, not undermine it, and we need to broaden the conversation on the longer-term initiative to increase access to medicines as we are hoping to achieve, with our paper on voluntary licensing and technology transfers. We recognise that voluntary licences are not a silver bullet, as is clear in the Annexes to our papers, but there are clear examples of their successful use. We are really pleased with the response to the paper, and we want to thank each and every Member who has engaged with us on it. And we want to encourage all of us to share our experiences and we look forward to further engagement in this area in the New Year.