Negotiations to give up a patent on a Covid vaccine are ‘stuck’, the head of the WTO warns

The head of the World Trade Organization has warned that highly demanding talks on giving up intellectual property over a Covid vaccine are “at an impasse” and need governments to compromise at the summit. WTO chief minister next week.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told reporters on Thursday: “If we have an attitude of disdain or nothing, it means we can all walk away with nothing.”

More progress is likely to be made on other issues, including an agreement to reduce fisheries subsidies, using trade to combat Covid and kicking off a discussion about reforming the WTO itself, she said.

Last year, India and South Africa made a sweeping proposal to waive intellectual property protections including patents, copyrights and trade secrets for all goods. Medicines are used to treat Covid, especially vaccines. Governments in rich countries including the EU, UK and Switzerland have opposed such a move broadly, while The United States has supported renunciation in principle without giving any details about the deal it might accept.

The EU last week launched a new proposal to make it easier for governments to override vaccine patents, but trade officials agree it is unlikely to close a large gap with India’s position. India and South Africa.

“We were stuck on the official track,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “We tried many things informally to get the talks going. At one point seemed to be going pretty well. But again, that got to a standstill. ”

Okonjo-Iweala recently visited India to discuss Delhi’s concerns on a number of WTO issues, including fisheries, which will also be discussed next week. India is asking for a broad waiver of restrictions on fishing subsidies.

She said that although talks with Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, were helpful, she could not claim to have produced a breakthrough.

Officials from the WTO’s 164 member governments will meet in Geneva next week for the regular ministerial meeting, which is usually held every two years. The meeting was postponed since last year and its venue was moved from Kazakhstan to Switzerland because of the Covid pandemic.

While ministers will be able to attend in person, the size of the delegations has been limited to minimize the possibility of a Covid outbreak, limiting the possibility of the usual tense negotiations that have created past agreements.

Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister and World Bank number two, became WTO Director-General in March. She has impressed ambassadors and ministers with her aggressive advocacy, including more coordination in vaccine production and distribution.

On Thursday, she said that the initiative to convene meetings of pharmaceutical companies, medical professionals, governments and activists has helped Covid globally. “The work of the WTO is not defined solely by the renunciation of intellectual property rights,” she said. ‘If you’re exempt but you don’t have production capacity, you can’t use it. If there is manufacturing capacity without technology transfer, it cannot be used”.

NS Manager Biden, although seemingly more active on the WTO than Donald Trump officials, have continued to impede the organization’s dispute resolution process by refusing to name new appointees to the agency. jurisdiction of this organization. That and other WTO reform issues will be passed on to the next minister after the upcoming meeting.

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