WTO meeting on COVID vaccine duty waiver ‘went very well’, president says

  • WTO seeks agreement after 18 months of deadlock
  • China expresses an objection to the proposal
  • The leader hopes for an agreement by the June ministerial

GENEVA, May 6 (Reuters) – The first meeting of the World Trade Organization to discuss a draft agreement to temporarily waive intellectual property rights over COVID-19 vaccines has “gone very well “, its president said on Friday, although some members had reservations.

The 164 members of the WTO discussed on Friday the “outcome document” which stems from months of negotiations between the main parties – the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa – with the aim of break an 18-month stalemate on the issue. Read more

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

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“Most said this could be developed into a negotiating text and that is the trajectory we need to take.”

However, two Geneva trade sources said after the meeting that some delegations had said the proposal was insufficient because it focused too narrowly on vaccines, echoing criticism from some civil society groups.

And while China expressed broad support for the document, it also objected to some of the language that appeared to exclude it from the waiver based on 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 criterion”.

The waiver idea, proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020, is backed by the majority of members of the global trade body.

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

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has been involved in brokering the talks and wants an agreement by June’s ministerial conference, said a deal would be “extremely important”.

The new draft agreement, which contains unresolved points, must be adopted by consensus and any member of the organization has the right of veto.

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

Privately, some delegates said the lack of public support for the deal by key negotiating parties had undermined the confidence of other members.

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Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Edmund Blair

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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