US reaffirms support for easing WTO rules on Covid-19 vaccines

US reaffirms support for easing WTO rules on Covid-19 vaccines

A top US trade official said Thursday the Biden administration remains committed to an easing of rules that protect the technology behind vaccines so that they can be produced more widely.

But ambassador Katherine Tai insisted that we cannot will something into being in negotiations on the issue at the World Trade Organisation because any such move requires all its member states to come on board.

Tai, the US trade representative, acknowledged that some outside the talks might perceive the US to have maintained silence on the issue in recent months.

That was after Washington took a stance in May in favour of a waiver of intellectual property rules at the when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines to help boost production around the world.

But she insisted work was continuing behind the scenes.

This may be the case of the duck on the pond, where from the outside you think that the duck is just sitting there hanging out, but underneath the surface the duck’s legs are going very, very fast.

Tai said at a talk at Geneva’s Graduate Institute.

She said the and many other countries want to see increased production of vaccines and more equitable access to them.

The waiver on COVID-19 vaccines is something we remain dedicated to, she said, while noting that the operates by consensus meaning all 164 member states must agree.

While we are making progress collectively, there is still a lot more progress that we need to make,” she said.

A Geneva-based trade official said a closed-door meeting of the WTO’s TRIPS Council on Wednesday produced points of convergence when it comes to a possible response to the pandemic through intellectual property tools.

The council chair, Ambassador Dagfinn Sorli of Norway, said he would aim to use the opportunity to advance toward a consensus when trade ministers from member states meet from November 30 to December 3.

The World Health Organisation says that the vast majority of COVID-19 vaccines largely produced in the US, Europe and Asia have gone to the world’s richest countries, while developing nations have had relatively little access to them.

Tai promoted the US show of leadership in taking the stance in favour of an IP waiver last spring, but said all countries need to show leadership on the issue for a waiver to be granted.

Part of the privilege of being regarded as a leader is that, people are always asking where is your leadership?’ so we exercised our leadership in May, she told reporters in Geneva before her talk at the Graduate Institute.

But please remember – right? – that the WTO is a consensus-based organisation, so we cannot will something into being.

You have to work with others, you gotta talk to them and listen to them, and that is what we are doing, she added. Trust me, none of this is easy … Everybody has got to exercise leadership.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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