United States urges all WTO members to support intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

WASHINGTON, Oct.21 (Reuters) – The White House on Thursday called on all members of the World Trade Organization to support an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines.

“We … need every WTO member to also step up and support an intellectual property waiver, and every company must act ambitiously and urgently to expand manufacturing now,” the spokesperson for the White House, Karine Jean-Pierre.

A year after South Africa and India presented a proposal to the WTO to temporarily waive intellectual property rights to COVID-19 vaccines and therapies, negotiations have made no progress. Read more

More than 100 countries supporting the waiver say it will help save lives by allowing developing countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines, but the European Union and several countries, including Switzerland, remain opposed.

US President Joe Biden reversed the previous US position to support the proposal in May, but a breakthrough has yet to materialize.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala admitted last week that formal negotiations on a temporary waiver were “stuck,” but said she believed informal talks were stepping up.

Okonjo-Iweala told a Washington think tank she believes WTO members could “find a pragmatic compromise on waiving intellectual property” that would ensure equitable access to vaccines, while preserving incentives to research and innovation.

An EU official described “intense talks” with South Africa on how to increase vaccine availability in developing countries, which could potentially break the deadlock. Read more

The WTO wants to reach an agreement on the global response to the pandemic at its ministerial conference in Geneva from November 30 to December 3.

Reporting by Steve Holland, Jeff Mason and Andrea Shalal; edited by Grant McCool

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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