WTO meeting on exemption from vaccination duties against COVID-19 went “very well”: president

  • The waiver idea was proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020.
  • Countries backing the waiver say it will help save lives by allowing developing countries to produce Covid-19 vaccines.
  • The talks of the 164 members of the World Trade Organization have been deadlocked for more than 18 months.

The first meeting of the World Trade Organization to discuss a draft agreement to temporarily relinquish intellectual property rights to Covid-19 vaccines went “very well”, its president said on Friday, although some members expressed reservations.

The 164-member WTO on Friday discussed the “final document” that stems from months of negotiations between the main parties – the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa – in an effort to break an 18-month deadlock over the topic.

“It went very well and here’s why I say that. No member rejected the result as completely unacceptable,” Ambassador Lansana Gberie of Sierra Leone, who chairs the council tasked with finding an agreement on the waiver, told Reuters after the meeting. behind closed doors. .

GBerie added:

The majority said that this could become a negotiating text and that is the path we have to follow.

However, two Geneva business sources said after the meeting that some delegations had said the proposal fell short because it focused too much on vaccines, echoing criticism from some civil society groups.

And while China expressed broad support for the document, it also raised an objection to some of the wording that seemed to exclude it from the exemption on the basis of its global share of vaccine exports, the two sources said.

China’s statement sent by its mission to the WTO in Geneva called the wording “an unreasonable and arbitrary approach.”

The idea of ​​the exemption, proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020, has the support of the majority of the members of the world trade body.

But some rich countries, including Britain and Switzerland, have raised objections in the past on the grounds that it could harm pharmaceutical research.

WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was involved in brokering the talks and wants a deal by the June ministerial conference, says a deal would be “very important.”

The new draft, which has unresolved areas, must be approved by consensus and any member of the organization has the right to veto.

One delegate described Friday’s meeting as the moment when the deal would “float or sink.”

Privately, some delegates have said that the lack of public support for the deal from the main negotiating parties has undermined confidence among other members.

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