The WTO is making progress in patent exemption talks against the COVID vaccine


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After months of debate, WTO members on Wednesday took a first small step towards an agreement aimed at increasing the production of vaccines and COVID treatments through waivers of patents or compulsory licensing agreements.

The World Trade Organization has struggled to move forward on the hotly debated issue, as all decisions of the world trade body must be reached by consensus of the 164 member states.

But during a meeting Wednesday, the countries finally backed the launch of a process to draft an agreement and “agreed on the urgency of that discussion,” a Geneva-based trade official said.

Meanwhile, views on the issue remain very separate, the trade official said, adding that an initial report on progress in text-based discussions was expected around July 21-22.

Since October, the WTO has faced demands from India and South Africa to temporarily remove these intellectual property protections, according to proponents, which will boost vaccine production. treatments, diagnoses and other vital medical tools needed to combat COVID in developing countries 19.

This, they have argued, could help to address especially the serious inequality in access to vaccines.

This notion came together for a long time of the 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 last month, when Washington backed a worldwide patent exemption for COVID coups, with other longtime opponents expressing their openness to discuss the issue.

But others have clung to their weapons.

Some countries, such as Switzerland, prefer a scenario in which pharmaceutical companies contract voluntary licensing contracts, as AstraZeneca has done with the Serum Institute of India (SII) to do its COVID-19 strokes.

And last Friday the European Commission presented a counter-proposal to the WTO calling for a multilateral pact aimed at boosting the production of COVID-19 vaccines, not through the suspension of patents, but through mandatory licensing agreements and urging countries to eliminate them. export restrictions.

This text, together with a revised proposal from India and South Africa, supported by more than 60 countries, will form the basis of the negotiations.

Ahead of Wednesday’s debate, U.S. business leader David Bisbee highlighted Washington’s strong belief in intellectual property protections.

“But we must do what is necessary to accelerate the manufacture and equitable distribution of vaccines,” he said, insisting that “the WTO must show that it can intensify and act efficiently to improve the lives of normal people. “

“We all need to come together to find a solution quickly, especially as the pandemic continues to spread with new variants.”

Bisbee said Washington was still examining the revised proposal from India and South Africa, adding that it seemed to mark a “relatively modest change.”

The EU does not support the suspension of the COVID vaccine patent in the WTO

© 2021 AFP

Citation: WTO moves ahead in patent exemption talks against COVID vaccine (2021, June 9) retrieved June 9, 2021 from inches-covid-vaccine-patent.html

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