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  16 Oct 2021, 12:39

WTO again fails to agree on Covid vaccine patent waiver

  GENEVA, Oct 16, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - The World Trade Organization said Friday

its member nations had again failed to agree to suspend intellectual property
rights for Covid-19 vaccines, with some countries doubting a deal could be
reached unless certain delegations make "real compromises".

  South Africa and India have called for intellectual property rights to be
temporarily lifted for coronavirus vaccines during the pandemic in order to
boost production and address the gaping inequality in access between rich and
poor nations.

  However the idea has met with fierce opposition from pharmaceutical giants
and their host countries, which insist patents are not the main roadblocks to
scaling up production and warn the move could hamper innovation.

  Pressure is mounting for an accord with just weeks left before the WTO's
12th ministerial conference, which runs from November 30 to December 3 in
Geneva.

  The council of the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual
Property Rights (TRIPS) met on Wednesday and Thursday to try to make progress
on the issue.

  The WTO works by consensus -- all 164 member states must agree to any deal.

  In a statement on Friday, the WTO said the council had not reached a deal.

  The statement said that some members had "flagged the risk of not achieving
an outcome unless delegations are able to make some real compromises."

  "A positive and meaningful outcome... would not only send a powerful
message of global solidarity, but would also be proof that the WTO has the
ability to respond to a major global crisis," those members added.

  The TRIPS council chair and Norway's WTO ambassador, Dagfinn Sorli,
admitted the body "is not yet in a position to agree on a concrete and
positive conclusion".

  He said the council will continue to consult member states on how to reach
consensus before the ministerial conference in Geneva. Further talks are also
scheduled for October 26.

  Numerous countries have backed South Africa and India's call for
coronavirus patents to waived, as has the World Health Organization and many
non-profits.

  Covid vaccination rates are on average 30 times higher in rich countries
than in poor countries. Many rich countries are now considering rolling out
third doses of vaccines while billions of people have yet to get access to a
first.

  WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said the yawning chasm in vaccination
rates between the haves and the have nots was "devastating for the lives and
livelihoods of Africans" and "morally unacceptable".

 

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