The EU and the UK raise doubts about the COVID arms patent exemption


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The EU, Britain and Japan continued to express to the WTO on Monday about a proposal to waive intellectual property on COVID-19 products such as vaccines, a Geneva trade official said.

Proposals to initiate text-based discussions on an intellectual property exemption, rather than more general talks, gained strength at an informal meeting of the Council on the Agreement on Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization, the official said.

The United States, China, Ukraine and New Zealand have put their weight behind the candidacy to waive certain TRIPS provisions related to the medical prevention, containment or treatment tools needed to combat COVID-19, he said. the official.

However, some members “continued to express doubts about the desirability of starting negotiations and asked for more time” to analyze the proposal, the official said.

They included the European Union, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Japan, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Taiwan.

WTO agreements require the consensual support of all 164 member states.

India and South Africa presented the original idea in October. They have submitted a revised proposal, which currently has the express support of 63 WTO members.

The new text they and other sponsors have released says the waiver should apply not only to vaccines, but to treatments, diagnoses, medical devices and protective equipment, along with the material and components needed to produce them. the bear.

It also says the waiver should last “at least three years” from the date of its entry into force, after which the WTO General Council should determine whether it should be extended.

Differences on the importance of intellectual property

The trade official said differences continued over the question of whether intellectual property protection maintained the goal of overcoming the pandemic and to what extent, and about the use and potential improvement of existing flexibilities within of the terms of the TRIPS.

Questions were also raised about the duration and completion of the waiver proposal, the official said.

The United States said it was open to text-based talks on any proposal that could address the immediate need for an increase. and distribution, the official said.

China said that since the initial proposal had been set in October, it was time to move on to the next stage, the official added.

Pakistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia and Kenya were some of the countries that expressed the need to start negotiations.

Meanwhile, the EU said the immediate goal should be to increase production along with measures such as removing export restrictions on vaccine ingredients.

Switzerland, which also hosts large pharmaceutical companies, said WTO members should explore ways to use the flexibilities within TRIPS instead of giving them up altogether, the trade official said.

The TRIPS Council will hold a formal meeting on 8 and 9 June.

According to an AFP count, more than 1.9 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been injected in at least 213 territories around the world.

Only 0.3% has been administered in the 29 lowest-income countries, where nine percent of the world’s population lives.

Proponents argue that the temporary removal of intellectual property rights will boost production in developing countries and address dramatic inequality in access.

This notion has long been met with fierce opposition from pharmaceutical giants and their host countries, who insisted that patents were not the main obstacles to increasing production and warned that the measure could hamper innovation. .

Positions appeared to change earlier this month, when Washington backed a global patent exemption for vaccines, with other longtime opponents expressing their openness to discuss the issue.

Countries are calling for a wider patent exemption than COVID vaccines

© 2021 AFP

Citation: EU and UK raise doubts about exemption from COVID arms patent (2021, June 1) recovered June 1, 2021 from eu-uk-covid-weapons-patent.html

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