“A bad deal is worse than no deal”: WTO urged to reject Director General’s proposal on limited TRIPS waiver

5 May, 2022: The WTO Director General, Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has announced that she will share a previously leaked proposal for a limited waiver on COVID19 vaccine monopolies with the wider WTO membership, despite an absence of agreement between key countries.

The Director General told Reuters that she hoped the WTO's 164 members would finalise and approve the proposal by the WTO Ministerial Conference in June, saying the proposal will “advance the discussion and dialogue. For the next pandemic or a flare up of this one, this is hugely important.”

Vaccine equity advocates, however, have criticised the proposal.  AFTINET endorsed an open letter from over 300 civil society organisaitons urging WTO members to reject the Director General’s proposal and negotiate a stronger waiver on COVID19 patent monopolies .

Former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, has criticised the proposal, saying: “It is too narrow in scope, excluding certain countries and covering only vaccines, ignoring the urgent need for other coronavirus treatments.” He adds, “[The proposal] is barely a waiver at all…”, saying it “will do little to improve access to vaccines and treatments.”

Leading economist and Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, has argued: “A meaningful outcome on the TRIPS waiver proposal holds the key to promoting equitable access to the COVID19 medical tools that can facilitate and sustain socio-economic recovery and protect the lives and livelihoods in South Africa, India and many other developing countries.”

“This [proposed] text reflects the interests of multinational pharmaceutical companies in preserving the deadly status quo,” stressing that a “bad deal is worse than no deal”.

  • To read the WTO Director General’s letter and proposal, see here.
  • To read the Reuters report, click here.
  • To read the Third World Network update, click here.