The US, EU, India and South Africa have at least forged a preliminary agreement on a waiver of intellectual property (IP) at the World Trade Organization – a move that the four countries hope will help others obtain more Covid-19 vaccine supplies, even as Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.
According to a leaked draft version, the exemption will apply to any developing country participating in the WTO, which exported less than 10% of the world’s Covid-19 vaccine doses by 2021 (ie not China or Russia, but India could use it).
But it will be limited to patents and will not cover other trade secrets, and it will only cover vaccines so far and not therapeutic agents or tests. But six months after the IP exemption vaccine takes effect, the plan says WTO members will decide whether to extend it to include diagnostics and treatment.
Those who were in favor of the exemption from the start did not offer much support for this latest plan.
“This is not a victory for vaccine equity,” tweeted Tahir Amin, an IP lawyer and co-founder of the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge, adding to Endpoints News:
So it seems that this “compromise” includes things that the United States was against as well as the European Union. They have both pressured South Africa’s and India’s negotiating room to accept a half-baked solution. I would like to emphasize that this is not a TRIPS exemption in the full sense, as hoped. It reflects the power dynamics of the Global North countries and how WTO rules are stacked against the Global South in pandemics and more.
“It does not do much that you can not already do,” KEI founder and IP waiver and coercive license attorney Jamie Love told Endpoints.
Nonprofit advocacy org Public Citizen also said in a statement that this proposal would not help anyone “except the shattering WTO and should be rejected.” The group noted important constraints, including “the proposal appears to cover only vaccines (not tests and treatments), only cover patents (not other important intellectual property barriers), be limited geographically and further undermine current WTO flexibility for compulsory licenses.”
My quick, overall view is that the agreement provides clarity and modest progress beyond what could already be done on a country-by-country basis under existing TRIPS flexibility
But it comes very late in the pandemic, where the world is much less limited
– Tom Bollyky (@TomBollyky) March 16, 2022
Also Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned that not all the last details have been ironed out.
“In the WTO, we decide by consensus, and that has not yet been achieved. My team and I have been working hard for the last three months and we are ready to roll up our sleeves again to work with TRIPS Council President Ambassador Lansana Gberie (Sierra Leone) to reach a full agreement as soon as possible. ” she said in a statement.