The four main manufacturers of anticovid vaccines reached a compromise on the repeal of intellectual property rights, the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO), who called for a consensus on the issue of all member countries.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala highlighted in a statement the “decisive progress achieved” by the European Union (EU), the United States, India and South Africa “regarding a derogation from the agreement on aspects of intellectual property rights that concern trade for the production of vaccines against Covid-19“.

“It’s a big step forward,” said the WTO director, noting that all the details of the compromise have not yet been finalized.

A few hours earlier, Adam Hodge, spokesman for the United States trade representative, had announced “a compromise that paves the way (…) towards a concrete and significant result”, while clarifying that consultations on the text are still ongoing. course.

In the United States, the Chamber of Commerce has already expressed its rejection of a repeal of intellectual property rights.

This technical agreement must now be confirmed at the political level, according to the entourage of the delegate minister for Foreign Trade of France, Franck Riester.

According to the same source, the commitment that is on the table would only apply to developing countries, and to those that represent less than 10% of annual world exports of Covid vaccines, de facto excluding China.

The compromise does not seek to dismantle the current intellectual property system, but rather to facilitate the granting of “compulsory licenses” before the covid-19 pandemic but also for future health crises.

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Under the WTO agreements, there is a compulsory license that allows governments to use a patent without the authorization of its owner and compensates the group that originated it.

Consensus?

Okonjo-Iweala supports the process and said that the negotiated compromise between the EU, the US, India and South Africa was “an essential element for any final agreement”.

The director of the WTO requested that the negotiations on the text be extended to all the member countries of the organization.

“In the WTO we decide by consensus, and we still have a way to go to achieve it,” he said.

However, Switzerland, which is home to large pharmaceutical laboratories, has on several occasions expressed its reluctance to the principle of a derogation of intellectual property rights.

Several developing countries, supported by NGOs and some international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), consider that a lifting of intellectual property rights is essential to facilitate greater knowledge sharing and the rapid multiplication of vaccine production sites.

The International Federation of the Pharmaceutical Industry (IFPMA) opposes any project to repeal intellectual property rights and considers that there are enough vaccines produced in the world (currently 12 billion doses per year) and that vaccination must first and foremost be accelerated.

The debates in the WTO on intellectual property and access to vaccines for poor countries were launched by India and South Africa in 2020, the first year of the pandemic of Covid-19.

As no progress was made, these two countries, joined by the United States and the European Union, launched a select group in December to negotiate a compromise.

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