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EU, UK voice doubts about Covid vaccine patent waiver at world trade talks

rfi.fr– The EU, Britain and Japan have continued to voice doubts at the World Trade Organisation about a proposed intellectual property waiver on Covid-19 products such as vaccines, according to a WTO official in Geneva.

The United States, China, Ukraine and New Zealand have thrown their weight behind the bid to waive certain provisions relating to the patent protection of some medical products such as Covid-19 vaccines, said the official.

However, other WTO members “continued to express doubts about the convenience of starting negotiations and asked for more time” to analyse the proposal, the official continued.

They included the European Union, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Japan, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Taiwan.

Agreements at the WTO require the backing of all 164 member states.

Indian, South African initiative

India and South Africa came forward with the original idea in October. They have submitted a revised proposal, which currently has the express support of 63 WTO members.

The new text says the waiver should apply not only to vaccines, but to treatments, diagnostics, medical devices and protective equipment, along with the material and components needed to produce them.

It also says the waiver should last for “at least three years” from the date it takes effect, following which the WTO’s General Council should determine whether it should be prolonged.

More than 1.9 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been injected in at least 213 counties around the world.

Just 0.3 percent have been administered in the 29 lowest-income nations, home to nine percent of the world’s population.

Proponents argue the temporary removal of intellectual property rights will boost production in developing countries and address the dramatic inequity in access.

That notion has long met with fierce opposition from pharmaceutical giants and their host countries, with warnings that the move could hamper future research.

US, China eager to move talks forward

The Geneva trade talks official said differences continued on the question of whether, and to what extent, intellectual property protection was holding up the goal of beating the pandemic.

Questions were also raised on the duration of the proposed waiver, the official said.

The United States said it was open to continued negotiations on any proposal that could address the immediate need for increased vaccine production and distribution.

  • Could waiving Covid-19 vaccine patents save the world?

China said that, as the initial proposal had been laid down in October, it was now time to move to the next stage.

Pakistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia and Kenya were among the countries expressing the need to start negotiations, said the official.

Meanwhile the EU said the immediate goal should be ramping up production alongside measures such as lifting export restrictions for vaccine ingredients.

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