European Union, UK cast doubts over COVID vaccine patent waiver, World News

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The EU, Britain and Japan continued to express doubts at the WTO on Monday over a proposed intellectual property waiver on Covid-19 products such as vaccines, a trade official said Geneva.

Proposals to initiate textual discussions on an intellectual property waiver, rather than more general discussions, gained ground at an informal meeting of the Council of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Aspects of trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS), the official said.

The United States, China, Ukraine and New Zealand supported the proposal to waive certain provisions of TRIPS relating to medical tools for prevention, containment or treatment needed to combat Covid-19, a declared the responsible.

However, some members “continued to express doubts about the convenience of entering into negotiations and requested more time” to analyze the proposal, the official said.

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

WTO agreements require the consensual support of 164 member states.

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

The new text that they and other donors have circulated indicates that the exemption should apply not only to vaccines, but to treatments, diagnostics, medical devices and protective equipment, as well as equipment and materials. to the components needed to produce them.

It also states that 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 in the importance of intellectual property

The trade official said differences persisted over whether, and to what extent, intellectual property protection was delaying the goal of beating the pandemic, and over the use and potential improvement of existing flexibilities. under the terms of the TRIPS Agreement.

Questions were also raised about the duration and termination of the proposed waiver, the official said.

The United States has said it is open to textual discussions on any proposal that could address the immediate need to increase vaccine production and distribution, the official said.

China said since the initial proposal was presented in October, it was time to take the next step, the official added.

Pakistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia and Kenya were among the countries that expressed the need to start negotiations, the official said.

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

Switzerland, which is also home to large pharmaceutical companies, said WTO members should explore ways to use TRIPS flexibilities rather than giving them up all together, the trade official said.

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

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

Only 0.3% was administered in the 29 lowest-income countries, which are home to 9% of the world’s population.

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 met fierce opposition from pharmaceutical giants and their host countries, who have insisted that patents are not the main impediments to increased production and warned that the move could hamper innovation.

Positions appeared to be shifting earlier this month, when Washington voted in favor of a global vaccine patent waiver, while other longtime opponents said they were open to discussing the matter.

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