New York Times: Covid Vaccine and Fisheries Deals Close a ‘Roller Coaster’ W.T.O. Meeting

June 17, 2022 Media

Members of the World Trade Organization announced several agreements on Friday at the close of their first in-person ministerial conference in four years, pledging to rein in harmful government policies that have encouraged overfishing and relax some controls on intellectual property in an effort to make coronavirus vaccines more widely available.

The agreements were hard fought, coming after several long nights of talks and extended periods when it appeared that the meeting would yield no major deals at all. Indeed, while the parties were able to reach a compromise on vaccine technology, the divide remained so deep that both sides criticized the outcome.

As part of the agreement, negotiations will continue with the goal of making recommendations on additional provisions to be considered at next year’s ministerial conference.

World Trade Organization members also agreed to loosen intellectual property rules to allow developing countries to manufacture patented Covid-19 vaccines under certain circumstances. Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, said in a statement that the trade organization’s members “were able to bridge differences and achieve a concrete and meaningful outcome to get more safe and effective vaccines to those who need it most.”

Lori Wallach, the director of the Rethink Trade program at the American Economic Liberties Project, called the outcome “a dangerous public health fail” and “a vulgar display of multilateralism’s demise” in which a few rich countries and pharmaceutical companies blocked the will of more than 100 countries to improve access to medicines. The agreement did not loosen intellectual property rights for treatments or therapeutics, as civil society groups had wanted.