The head of the World Trade Organization warned that negotiations to abandon the Covid vaccine patent are “stalled”
The head of the World Trade Organization warned that the fierce negotiations on the intellectual property rights exemption for Covid vaccines are “stalemate” and require governments to make compromises at the WTO’s main ministerial meeting next week.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told reporters on Thursday: “If we take an all-or-nothing attitude, then it means we may get nothing.”
She said that more progress may be made on other issues, including agreements to reduce fisheries subsidies, the use of trade to combat the new crown virus, and the initiation of discussions on reforming the WTO itself.
Last year, India and South Africa proposed a comprehensive proposal to abandon the protection of intellectual property rights for all medical products used to treat Covid, especially vaccines, including patents, copyrights and trade secrets.The governments of wealthy countries including the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland oppose such a wide range of initiatives, and The U.S. supports exemptions in principle It did not provide any details of the transactions it might accept.
The European Union made a new proposal last week to make it easier for the government to overturn vaccine patents, but trade officials agreed that it is extremely unlikely to bridge the huge gap with India and South Africa.
“We have been stuck on official tracks,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “We have tried a lot of things informally to negotiate. At some point, this seemed to be going well. But this was stuck again.”
Okonjo-Iweala recently visited India to discuss Delhi’s concerns on several WTO issues, including fisheries, which will also be discussed next week. India requires a broad exemption from fishing subsidy restrictions.
She said that although the meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was very useful, she could not claim a breakthrough.
Officials from the governments of the 164 member states of the WTO will hold a regular ministerial meeting in Geneva next week, which is usually held every two years. Due to the Covid pandemic, the conference has been postponed since last year, and the conference venue has been moved from Kazakhstan to Switzerland.
Although the ministers will be able to attend in person, the size of the delegation is limited to minimize the possibility of a Covid outbreak, thus limiting the possibility of the usual intense negotiations that have been agreed in the past.
Okonjo-Iweala, the former Nigerian Minister of Finance and the second place in the World Bank, became the Director-General of the World Trade Organization in March. Her active advocacy impressed the ambassadors and ministers, including strengthening the coordination of vaccine production and distribution.
On Thursday, she said that her initiative to convene a meeting of pharmaceutical companies, health experts, governments and activists would help the global response to the new coronavirus. “WTO’s work is not just defined by intellectual property exemptions,” she said. ‘If you get the exemption, but you don’t have the manufacturing ability, you can’t use it. If you have manufacturing capabilities but no technology transfer, you cannot use it. ”
this The Biden administration, Although it has a more positive view of the WTO than officials of Donald Trump, its refusal to appoint newly appointed members of the Appellate Body continues to obstruct the body’s dispute settlement procedures. After the upcoming meeting, this issue and other WTO reform issues will be postponed to the next ministerial meeting.