EU, UK, Switzerland and Norway must stop blocking negotiations on historic pandemic monopoly waiver – World
Just released EU counter-proposal is weak and an attempt to derail the will of over 100 countries
Geneva, June 7, 2021— Ahead of the next World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting on the historic proposal for a monopoly waiver in the event of a pandemic — the “TRIPS waiver” — the international humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Borders (MSF) has denounced the European Union (EU) and countries like the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway for using delaying tactics instead of agreeing to start formal negotiations on this critical waiver of a when COVID-19 has already killed more than 3.5 million people around the world and where there are serious inequalities in access to COVID-19 medical tools. A month ago, the United States signaled its support for the waiver in a revolutionary movement. On June 4, the EU released a counter-proposal focused on ‘compulsory licensing’, which does not really bring anything new to the table and instead is just a maneuver to block the negotiation process for waivers. .
If passed, the waiver would provide countries with essential policy space to overcome barriers to intellectual property (IP) to increase collaboration in research and development, manufacturing, scale-up and supply. drugs, vaccines and other health technologies COVID-19. Lifting monopolies would help level the playing field in this pandemic and ensure access to critically important COVID-19 medical tools for all who need them, regardless of where they live.
“Over the past few months, we have all witnessed helplessly how healthcare workers in countries like India, Peru and Brazil have struggled to provide care to people with COVID- 19, ”said Dr Maria Guevara, MSF International Medical Secretary. “Their health systems were on the verge of collapsing and it was very difficult to provide supportive therapies to critically ill COVID-19 patients in hospitals, as oxygen concentrators, ventilators and drugs remain scarce. In addition to vaccines, the world urgently needs access to new therapies and diagnostics to reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths in this pandemic. Governments must do everything in their power to ensure that every country has the best chance of saving as many lives as possible throughout this pandemic.
The cosponsors of the waiver proposal recently submitted a revised proposal to the WTO outlining its scope and duration, with the aim of moving to formal text-based negotiations. A growing number of countries (63 to date) are co-sponsoring the waiver and more than 100 nations, and most recently the BRICS bloc, have shown their support and welcomed the waiver overall. Brazil, however, remains reluctant to declare full support for the waiver proposal, defining its position as “open to discussion”, but at the same time pushing for a longer negotiating period.
Following the May 5 announcement of the United States supporting the proposal and expressing willingness to engage in formal text-based negotiations, many more countries have expressed interest in moving forward with the discussions. However, the EU has so far refused to engage in productive discussions on the proposal and instead continues to rally behind voluntary measures by pharmaceutical companies, which so far have had limited success. The EU has also insisted that countries use an existing public health measure — a “compulsory license” to replace product-by-product patents — to facilitate the production of individual COVID-19 medical tools, rather that an exemption which addresses all IP barriers up front.
While MSF has long advocated for the use of compulsory licenses when needed to ensure that countries benefit from the lowering price effect of competition between generic manufacturers to increase access to essential medicines , this route is not effective during a pandemic: legal obstacles, pressure from companies and paperwork make the task too heavy, slow and complicated to meet pandemic-level challenges. The proposed TRIPS waiver would provide countries with an efficient and rapid way to remove major obstacles to intellectual property in advance, rather than waiting for the obstacles to rise and then taking action.
“The EU’s continued insistence on the use of compulsory licenses in its counter-proposal as an excuse to oppose the original ‘TRIPS waiver’ is spurious and endangers public health around the world.” said DimitriEynikel, EU policy advisor for MSF’s access campaign. “By focusing only on compulsory licenses, the EU is promoting a safeguard that can only circumvent patents but not all obstacles to intellectual property, making it less effective than the proposed waiver. In this raging pandemic, countries must have all options at their disposal to encourage the manufacture of COVID-19 medical tools across the world. The EU and other countries opposed to this exemption must stop blocking the efforts of other countries to protect their populations in the event of a public health emergency.
Meanwhile, many Members of the European Parliament are scrambling to garner support for the proposed waiver. Last month, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on ending the HIV / AIDS epidemic by 2030, in which a clear call was made to support the proposed TRIPS waiver. The European Parliament is expected to vote on a specific resolution in favor of the proposed derogation between 7 and 10 June. A number of countries that continue to resist the waiver proposal are also part of the Group of 7 (G-7), whose heads of state are meeting at a summit next week. G-7 leaders should, at this critical time of a pandemic, take concrete steps to show global solidarity and support this important monopoly waiver to facilitate access to COVID-19 medical tools.
“With new, more transmissible variants of the virus emerging in many countries, we cannot afford to delay adoption of this waiver and other strategies needed to accelerate a global solution for increased production and diversification. of supply, so that COVID-19 medical tools are accessible and affordable for everyone, ”Guevara said.
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