WTO: Rich countries block coronavirus drugs rights waiver

WTO: Rich countries block coronavirus drugs rights waiver

World Trade Organization - WTO

Rich nations reiterated their opposition on Friday to a proposal to waive intellectual property rules for COVID-19 drugs, three commercial sources said, despite pressure to make an exception to improve access to drugs for countries. poorer.

Supporters of the exemption say existing intellectual property rules create barriers to access to affordable drugs and vaccines and want restrictions to be eased, as happened during the AIDS epidemic.

But opposition from the European Union, the United States and some other wealthy nations in a meeting on Friday means that the proposal to be presented to the General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) next month will likely fail.

“If rich countries prefer profit to life, they will kill you by tying it up on technicalities,” said a delegate who supported the motion and attended the closed-door meeting.

The 164-member body of the WTO generally has to reach an agreement by consensus unless the members agree to vote, which is exceptional.

A second trade source said developing countries denied that intellectual property rights were creating barriers, saying their suspension “was not only unnecessary but would also undermine collaborative efforts to combat the pandemic that are already underway.”

The US and EU diplomatic missions in Geneva did not immediately provide comment.

The proposal was first raised by India and South Africa in October. Since then, China, which has five COVID-19 vaccine candidates in late-stage trials, has voiced support, as have dozens of other WTO members, mostly from developing countries.

The World Health Organization says it supports addressing barriers to access to COVID-19 medicines, as does Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, selected by a panel to be the next director-general of the WTO.

Lobbying outside the world trade body has also intensified.

This week, more than 100 civil society organizations wrote to EU lawmakers urging them to support the exemption.

Yuanquiong Hu, senior policy and legal officer at the French medical charity MSF (Doctors Without Borders or Doctors Without Borders), said that recent positive data from COVID-19 vaccine trials conducted by US pharmaceutical companies increased the urgency of the waiver proposal.

“There is a hierarchical model and the poorest countries are asked to take the leftovers,” he said.

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