March 8, 2021: Australians were shocked by last week’s news that the Italian government, backed by the European Union, had blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Australia. Dr Deborah Gleeson, Associate Professor at La Trobe University, explains in The Conversation Australia’s role as both a contributor to this problem, and a victim of it in this case. Her article was also reprinted by the ABC.
March 3, 2021: The majority of more than 30 delegations speaking in the World Trade Organisation General Council on March 1, 2021, were in favour of the proposed suspension of rules under the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, for the COVID-19 pandemic period, according to a WTO official familiar with the proceedings.
February 25, 2021: The World Trade Organisation has again delayed the debate and decision on the proposed suspension of intellectual property trade rules from its General Council meeting on March 1-2, to the TRIPS Council on March 10-11, 2021. Meanwhile Pope Francis, who has an ambassador to the WTO, has come out is support of the suspension.
On February 23, 2020, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the WTO, told the Council of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights:
February 22, 2021: The World Trade Organisation will finally vote on the suspension of intellectual property rules during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 1-2, 2021. The global advisory bodies for workers and civil society to the Group of 20 rich countries is urging it to call on the WTO to support the suspension.
February 17, 2021: Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, confirmed as World Trade Organisation Director-General on February 15, is making her top priority ensuring the trade body does more to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
A former special envoy for the World Health Organisation on COVID-19, she called the disparities in vaccine rates between rich and poor countries “unconscionable” and urged members to lift export restrictions on medical items.
February 10, 2021: Former US President Trump made life at the top of the World Trade Organisation hard for its former head, Roberto Azevado, who left early to take a job with PepsiCo. Then Trump blocked the appointment of his replacement, who had clear majority support. Now US President Biden has cleared the way for her appointment,
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria, is likely be the first woman and first African to head the WTO when the post is filled later this year.
February 2, 2021: The next round of World Trade Organisation TRIPS Council negotiations on improving access to vaccines for low income countries by waiving certain intellectual property (IP) rules during the COVID-19 pandemic will take place this Thursday, February 4.
The proposal initiated by India and South Africa is now being officially co-sponsored by Eswatini, Kenya, Mozambique, Pakistan, Mongolia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Egypt.
February 1, 2021: World Health Organisation Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a briefing on January 29, “If we hoard vaccines and we are not sharing, there will be three major problems. One, I have said it, it will be a catastrophic moral failure and two it keeps the pandemic burning and three very slow global economy recovery”.
January 25, 2021: The Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce has commissioned a team of economists affiliated with Harvard University, the University of Maryland and Istanbul’s Koc University, to examine trade data across 35 industries in 65 countries, which explores the economic impacts of unequal COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
January 21, 2021: Incoming US President Joe Biden has immediately issued Executive Orders which reverse major Trump policies over the last four years, beginning with re-joining the World Health Organisation and plans to address deadly COVID-19 pandemic, reversing his environmental agenda including re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement, cancelling his anti-immigration policies, bolstering the economy and restoring federal efforts to promote diversity.
International trade agreements didn’t feature.