Corporate greed and rich countries cowardice lead WTO to abandon proposed sharing of Covid treatment technologies

David Legge Avatar

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last night, news broke that the World Trade  Organization (WTO) is preparing to reject a proposal that would have  relaxed pharmaceutical monopolies and supported global sharing of  COVID-19 therapeutic and diagnostic technologies. 

In response, Global Trade Watch director Melinda St. Louis issued the  following statement: 

“In a pandemic, among the most precious resources is time. By this  measure, the rich countries at the WTO, swayed by the profiteering  interests of Big Pharma, were shamefully negligent. While waiving  cumbersome rules that inhibit sharing of COVID-19 medical technologies  should have been a priority as soon as we understood the magnitude of  the pandemic, rich countries blocked a waiver for COVID vaccines for years. They then delivered a woefully inadequate decision in June 2022 that  applied only to vaccines and have now — after a long delay — denied  this extremely modest proposal to extend the June 2022 decision to  cover COVID tests and treatments. (See: for-covid-19-diagnostics-therapeutics/ .) 

“Big Pharma’s unfathomable profit margins would have hardly budged  under this modest proposal, but their CEOs and lobbyists did not want  the precedent of another WTO decision shifting the needle even  slightly away from their sacrosanct intellectual property rights and  toward public health. The urgency of the proposal became clearer after the U.S. government’s October 2023 study revealed the ongoing unmet need for  COVID treatments. Yet, rich countries, including our own, were not  brave enough to stand up to Big Pharma to save lives.  (See: ision-extension/.)  

“We will never forget the critical time the WTO wasted or the untold  lives lost because rich countries refused to share the doses and  knowledge that scientists around the world and public funds helped produce. 

“We thank South Africa, India, and the many governments, public health  organizations and global justice advocates who supported the original  comprehensive waiver and helped shine a light on our trade regime’s  deadly prioritization of intellectual property over public health.”

(See: condemn-delay-and-destruction-of-meaningful-trips-waiver-inside-the-wt o-12th-ministerial/.) 

Global Trade Watch / Public Citizen, 30 Jan 2024


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