World Trade Organization TRIPS waiver to tackle coronavirus

16-09-2021

The coronavirus pandemic has rekindled the global debate on whether the multilateral trade regime for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection limits access to essential medical products. Despite embedded flexibilities in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), India and South Africa, co-sponsored by a large number of developing countries, submitted an initial proposal for a temporary waiver in response to Covid-19 in October 2020, followed by a revised proposal in May 2021, which continues to divide opinion. The US administration voiced its support for a vaccines waiver. EU leaders indicated an openness to discussion, while putting forward an alternative plan with a focus on limiting export restrictions, compulsory licensing and using the existing TRIPS flexibilities.

The coronavirus pandemic has rekindled the global debate on whether the multilateral trade regime for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection limits access to essential medical products. Despite embedded flexibilities in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), India and South Africa, co-sponsored by a large number of developing countries, submitted an initial proposal for a temporary waiver in response to Covid-19 in October 2020, followed by a revised proposal in May 2021, which continues to divide opinion. The US administration voiced its support for a vaccines waiver. EU leaders indicated an openness to discussion, while putting forward an alternative plan with a focus on limiting export restrictions, compulsory licensing and using the existing TRIPS flexibilities.