Common Dreams: ‘Complete Garbage’: Campaigners Blast WTO Alternative to Covid Patent Waiver

May 3, 2022 Media

Global health justice advocates on Tuesday rejected the World Trade Organization’s corporate-friendly alternative to India and South Africa’s widely supported motion to waive the intellectual property monopolies that are undermining the increased production of lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics by generic manufacturers.

The WTO’s alternative proposal—leaked on March 15 and submitted formally on Tuesday—”not only fails to remove intellectual property barriers standing in the way of global access to Covid vaccines, tests, and treatments, it actually imposes some new ones,” Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of the Trade Justice Education Fund, said in a statement. “The fact that it took the WTO over a year to come up with this completely backwards proposal shows just how broken and out of touch the corporate-centered institution remains.”

More than five million people and counting have died directly from Covid-19 since October 2, 2020, when India and South Africa first introduced their popular Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver proposal to suspend coronavirus-related patents for the duration of the pandemic. Millions more have died as an indirect result of the ongoing public health emergency.

Unlike India and South Africa’s proposed waiver, which is backed by more than 100 WTO members, “this text does not suspend intellectual property barriers and even adds new conditions that undermine countries’ abilities to use existing WTO rules allowing production of medicines without patentholder permission,” said Lori Wallach, director of Rethink Trade at the American Economic Liberties Project.

“How can it be that in the face of a global pandemic that has taken 15 million lives and destroyed billions more livelihoods, in two years the WTO cannot get out of the way of global access to medicines that governments paid pharmaceutical firms billions to develop and distribute?” she asked.