July 5, 2022

Covid Vaccine and Fisheries Deals Close a ‘Roller Coaster’ W.T.O. Meeting

As part of the agreement, negotiations will continue with the goal of making recommendations on additional provisions to be considered at next year’s ministerial conference.

World Trade Organization members also agreed to loosen intellectual property rules to allow developing countries to manufacture patented Covid-19 vaccines under certain circumstances. Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, said in a statement that the trade organization’s members “were able to bridge differences and achieve a concrete and meaningful outcome to get more safe and effective vaccines to those who need it most.”

The issue of relaxing intellectual property rights for vaccines had become highly controversial. It pitted the pharmaceutical industry and developed countries that are home to their operations, particularly in Europe, against civil society organizations and delegations from India and South Africa.

Stephen J. Ubl, the president and chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the agreement had “failed the global population.” Global vaccine supplies are currently plentiful, he said, and the agreement did little to address “real issues affecting public health,” such as supply chain bottlenecks or border tariffs on medicines.

Lori Wallach, the director of the Rethink Trade program at the American Economic Liberties Project, called the outcome “a dangerous public health fail” and “a vulgar display of multilateralism’s demise” in which a few rich countries and pharmaceutical companies blocked the will of more than 100 countries to improve access to medicines. The agreement did not loosen intellectual property rights for treatments or therapeutics, as civil society groups had wanted.

Divisions between rich and poor countries and between big business and civil society groups were apparent in other negotiations, which were also overlaid with the geopolitical challenges of a global pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/17/business/economy/wto-covid-patents-fisheries.html

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