[Ip-health] Reuters: A year after COVID vaccine waiver proposal, WTO talks are deadlocked

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Oct 4 12:13:00 PDT 2021


October 4, 2021

6:46 PM CEST

Last Updated 3 hours ago

Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals

A year after COVID vaccine waiver proposal, WTO talks are deadlocked

By Emma Farge

GENEVA, Oct 4 (Reuters) - A year after South Africa and India introduced a
novel proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property rights on
COVID-19 vaccines and therapies at the World Trade Organization,
negotiations are deadlocked and directionless, trade sources said on Monday
after a meeting on the topic.

More than 100 countries backing the waiver say it will help save lives by
allowing developing countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines. But a handful
of countries, including some hosting major pharmaceutical firms such as
Switzerland, remain opposed. Washington threw its weight behind the
proposal in May, raising expectations of a breakthrough that has so far
failed to materialise.

At a closed-door TRIPS Council meeting on the waiver on Monday, Norway's
Dagfinn Sorli seemed frustrated and asked delegates: "Where do we go from
here?," according to three trade sources who attended.

He urged delegates to come forward quickly with advice on next steps, the
sources added. "I definitely need your advice," he told them.

China in the same meeting described the discussions as circular, with no
real progress achieved, according to one of the sources attending. India's
delegate said that some members had done everything in their power to avoid
meaningful engagement, the source added.

The meeting was the penultimate scheduled session on the waiver ahead of a
major ministerial conference in November-December which provides a rare
opportunity for new trade deals, such as on intellectual property, to be

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has identified solutions to
vaccine inequity as a priority for the global trade body, which has been
facing questions recently about its relevance.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said in a statement on Friday that
the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden should urge countries that
remain opposed to the waiver to change their stance.

"This would pave the way for additional manufacturers to help increase the
production and supply of these lifesaving medical tools and meet the global
need," it said.

Opponents said in Monday's discussions that it was not yet clear that a
waiver would help remove barriers to vaccine equity such as raw material
scarcity and supply chain issues, according to the sources.

Reporting by Emma Farge, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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