EU stuck on waiving COVID-related intellectual property at WTO
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Law360 (July 6, 2021, 8:09 p.m. EDT) – As members of the World Trade Organization reconvened on Tuesday to discuss a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property protections related to COVID-19, the European Union clashed with supporters of the waiver over when and how such a waiver would ever end.
The informal meeting in Geneva was the last convened by Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli of Norway, Chairman of the WTO Council overseeing the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS. Much of Tuesday’s meeting was dominated by a debate between representatives of South Africa and the EU, which had remained the greatest resistance in the current negotiations since last october.
Little progress has been made, according to a Geneva-based trade official.
Instead, delegates argued over how long the proposed waiver would last. Major supporters of the waiver, including South Africa, India and more than 100 other members of the trade organization, want a deal that would lift intellectual property protections for at least three years. On Tuesday, the South African delegation made it clear that such an agreement would not end automatically either, but only when the ongoing pandemic ends.
The EU did not share South Africa’s optimism that a deal was about to be reached, the official said. Such an agreement would need the support of the 159 members of the WTO. The EU has spent the last month trying to draw attention to a different proposal, which would gradually remove restrictions on the export of vaccines around the world, but not suspend intellectual property protections.
On Tuesday, the EU called its plan the only one that could be adopted quickly enough to impact the response to the pandemic around the world. Their plan, delegates stressed, was more pragmatic, echoing comments made by representatives from the United States at meetings last week.
Outside the WTO, supporters of the waiver largely rejected the EU’s proposal. Dimitri Eynikel, policy adviser for Doctors Without Borders – one of the most ardent supporters of the TRIPS waiver in Europe and the United States – called it last week “nothing more than a facade on a system that is already in operation. square “.
Representatives of the United States responded on Tuesday that they were also concerned about the length of the proposed waiver, noting that a founding article of the Marrakesh Agreement, which established the WTO, required that all waivers accepted by the organization permanently end. Appointment.
Publicly, the United States has go out in support waiver but has so far extended this support only to waiver of patent protection and only to patents directly related to vaccines.
Sørli, the chairman of the meeting, also spoke on Tuesday the question of trade secrets. Supporters of the waiver have indicated that they plan to insist that protections covering regulatory data be lifted as well.
Formally, the panel succeeded in reaching an agreement to continue discussions on the subject.
Another informal meeting is scheduled for Friday. The next official meeting on the subject is scheduled for July 20.
–Additional reports by Kevin Stawicki, Grace Dixon and Britain Eakin. Editing by Robert Rudinger.
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