MSF to governments negotiating at WTO: get it right and adopt the real TRIPS Waiver

To effectively increase people’s access to all COVID medical tools, governments must return to TRIPS Waiver proposed over 20 months ago

At the World Trade Organization (WTO) General Council Meeting (7 June) and the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (12 – 15 June), governments are expected to continue negotiations on a problematic draft text presented in early May that, if adopted as it stands, could set a negative precedent for efforts to increase access to medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tests now and in the future. 

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) again urged governments to reject this early May draft text, and instead take this opportunity to adopt the real ‘TRIPS Waiver’ – proposed 20 months ago and supported by more than 100 governments – as it would provide an effective way to help increase people’s access to all COVID medical tools.

Yuanqiong Hu, Senior Legal and Policy Advisor for MSF's Access Campaign:

“The original TRIPS Waiver proposed 20 months ago aimed to tackle intellectual property barriers for all COVID medical tools by making it easier for any country to increase production and supply during the pandemic, so adopting it should have been an urgent and essential priority for the global pandemic response. This is the last chance for governments to finally do the right thing and come back to the original spirit of the TRIPS Waiver proposal that had the support of over 100 governments, international health institutions, civil society groups and millions of people across the globe – the resounding call has been that there should be no monopolies in a pandemic.

People’s access to important COVID treatments and diagnostics remains challenging in many developing countries due in part to intellectual property barriers and restrictive licencing by pharmaceutical corporations – the original TRIPS Waiver would help overcome these barriers and make countries more self-reliant in providing lifesaving medical tools to their people. Against the backdrop of a pandemic that WHO estimates has already claimed almost 15 million lives, and in which there has been grave inequity in access to medical tools, we want to see governments urgently come up with a true intellectual property waiver that covers treatments, vaccines and tests and is free for any country to use.

We are gravely concerned that the text currently being used as the basis for negotiations is categorically different than the original TRIPS Waiver proposal and contains multiple issues that need to be substantively addressed. We don’t want to see a decision at WTO that could take us in the wrong direction and may end up setting a negative precedent, including by limiting existing public health safeguards.”

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