Leaked WTO Text on COVID a Step Backwards on Access to Medicines

UPDATE (12/6/22): This morning, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced its wants more time to make a decision about World Trade Organization (WTO) rules standing in the way of global access to COVID diagnostics and therapeutics, and it called for the U.S. International Trade Commission to provide more data on the subject.  With billions of people worldwide still denied access to COVID tests, vaccines and medicines, the call for “‘more information” cannot be an excuse for inaction.

UPDATE (6/12/22): As the World Trade Organization’s first ministerial meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic closed without agreement to temporarily waive WTO intellectual property rules standing in the way of global vaccine, test and treatment access, Citizens Trade Campaign was one of hundreds of organizations from dozens of countries that condemned the European Union, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States for their roles in blocking the TRIPS waiver proposed by South Africa and India and cosponsored by 65 nations.  In the face of the outrageous failure to act by the WTO, we’ve also called on governments to “act in good faith outside of the WTO’s strictures” to ensure everyone has access to the COVID vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics necessary to save lives and end the pandemic.

Citizens Trade Campaign and other civil society organizations are urging President Biden to oppose a leaked World Trade Organization (WTO) text that fails to waive ongoing WTO barriers to COVID vaccine, test and treatment access and would actually impose new barriers to the use of existing (albeit very weak) compulsory licensing rules.

Now in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, billions of people worldwide still have not had access to even a single COVID vaccine dose.  As a result, thousands of people continue to die needlessly each day, and the world remains at heightened risk from new potential COVID variants.  To transition COVID from a deadly pandemic into a “manageable endemic” phase, global access to low-cost tests and treatments is also desperately needed.

Echoing similar analysis by experts in South Africa and India, Citizens Trade Campaign and other U.S. civil society organizations sent a joint letter to President Biden arguing that the leaked WTO text “is just another rehash of the EU’s efforts to thwart the very concept of a waiver, despite support for it by almost all other WTO nations. The text restates existing WTO rules that have proved unsuitable for boosting COVID-19 supplies as if they were new, and then imposes burdensome new conditions on nations seeking to use the existing flexibilities.”

The letter was also signed by Doctors Without Borders, Partners In Health, Oxfam America, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Public Citizen, Health GAP, Knowledge Ecology International, Treatment Action Group, NETWORK, Trade Justice Education Fund and ReThink Trade.

“If adopted as-is, this text, while continuing to privilege Big Pharma monopolies and profits, would continue to deny access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to millions around the world,” the letter states.


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