NZ civil society demands tougher stance on vaccine apartheid in UK trade negotiations

December 12, 2021: A coalition of thirty-three civil society organisations have written to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this week, calling for NZ to use its bilateral trade negotiations with the United Kingdom and European Union to push for their support of a proposal to temporarily lift patent monopolies on vaccines at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The letter welcomes NZ’s support of the proposal to relax WTO intellectual property rules (known as the ‘TRIPS Waiver’), but notes that the initiative has been blocked by a handful of powerful nations – the UK, EU, and Switzerland.

With NZ in ongoing negotiations with the UK and the EU, the authors of the letter argue that “these negotiations put NZ in an ideal position to extend diplomatic pressure. Crucially, We want to see support for the TRIPS Waiver as a pre-condition of NZ’s bilateral trade negotiations with the UK and EU.”

Edward Miller, spokesperson of the trade justice advocacy organisation It’s Our Future, said that while New Zealand is normally a weaker partner in free trade agreement negotiations, this is not the case in the NZ-UK FTA negotiation:

“Post-Brexit, the UK is looking for new trading partners, and needs NZ’s support so it can join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Making support for a TRIPS Waiver a prerequisite of this negotiation sends a strong signal to future trading partners about how trade and investment rules need to adapt.”

“It is time for New Zealand to take a harder stance on the nations who sustain vaccine apartheid. We have an opportunity to use this current position to support global public health and equity. Now is the time to use that position.”

  • Read the media release from It’s Our Future here.
  • Retweet the news here.
  • Read the Newsroom op-ed by Edward Miller here.