January 11, 2022: The World Trade Organisation General Council met virtually on January 10. This was a response to India’s recent proposal to hold an urgent virtual Ministerial Conference on the WTO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a proposed temporary waiver of WTO intellectual property rules on vaccine monopolies, which would enable production of affordable vaccines in low-income countries.
January 10, 2022: Following ratification by the Australian and other governments, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) came into force on January 1, 2022. Negotiations began in 2012 between sixteen countries, but India withdrew in 2019. Six ASEAN and five non-ASEAN governments have ratified. They are Australia, New Zealand,, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia Laos, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines have not yet ratified the RCEP.
December 21, 2021: After the WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) was postponed in November, discussions on the proposal to lift vaccine patent monopolies (known as the ‘TRIPS waiver’) have intensified, as WTO Ministers from South Africa, India, the United States and the European Union met online to discuss a way forward and find common ground.
December 17, 2021: After 18 months of secretive negotiations, Trade Ministers from Australia and the UK today signed the Australia-UK FTA and released the text of the agreement. Fair trade advocates are demanding an independent assessment o f costs and benefits before it is ratified, as recommended by the parliamentary committee that reviews trade agreements.
December 16, 2021: Nobel Laureate in economics, Joseph Stiglitz, has called on the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to support a proposal at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to lift intellectual property patents on COVID19 vaccines.
December 16, 2021: As World Trade Organisation (WTO) delegates meet today to discuss a proposal to temporarily lift vaccine intellectual property patents, vaccine equity advocates are calling for immediate action amid a ‘tsunami’ of Omicron cases.
December 12, 2021: A coalition of thirty-three civil society organisations has 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).
December 14, 2021: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has today announced that Australia will produce millions of mRNA vaccines from 2024 through an ‘in-principle’ deal struck between Moderna, the Federal Government, and the Victorian Government to build a local manufacturing facility in the state.
December 13, 2021: A coalition of regional and national civil society groups from the ten ASEAN countries has asked the ASEAN secretariat to conduct a human rights assessment of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade agreement due to come into force in January 2022.
ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam
December 8, 2021: One hundred and twenty-eight civil society groups from around the world last week sent an open letter to the Director General of the World Trade Organisation asking the WTO to resume urgent negotiations and decide to waive monopolies on COVID1-19 vaccines and related products.