EU submites alternative vaccine access proposal to WTO

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The European Union has submitted to the World Trade Organization a plan it believes will more effectively broaden supply of COVID-19 vaccines than the intellectual property (IP) rights waiver backed by the United States, Reuters reports.

India, South Africa and dozens of developing countries are demanding an IP rights waiver for COVID-19 vaccines and other treatments to address what they say is a “staggering inequity” in access to what they argue should be global public goods.

The European Commission, which oversees trade policy for the 27-nation EU, said on Friday it had submitted an alternative, stressing limits on export restrictions and existing WTO rules allowing countries to grant licences to producers.

The proposal is divided in two communications where the EU underlines the WTO's central role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and urges fellow WTO members to agree on a set of commitments: first, limiting export restrictions; second, expanding productions; tгird, facilitating the use of compulsory licencing within the current WTO rules.

“The EU has actively shown solidarity with the world since the beginning of the pandemic", President von der Leyen said. "The European Union authorised exports of around half of the total amount of vaccines produced in Europe. Our immediate, urgent goal is to ensure equitable access for low – and middle-income countries, to share vaccines wider and faster. EU continues to help ramping up production."

The EU proposes concrete short and medium term solutions to ensure universal access at affordable prices. I am looking forward to discuss with the G7 leaders next week how to achieve this goal. Beyond the current crisis, it is important to ensure global preparedness for future pandemics: diversifying manufacturing so that it is not centralised only in a handful of countries and strengthening the resilience of the healthcare infrastructure in least developed countries, von der Leyen added.

“We need to urgently concentrate on proposals that accelerate the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said. "In this respect, a strong multilateral trade response could deliver a huge boost in the fight against COVID-19. The objective must be to ensure that any available and adequate manufacturing capacity anywhere in the world is used for the COVID-19 vaccines production.”

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