World Trade Organisation

About the WTO

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) was founded in 1995. It aims to increase international trade in goods, services and agriculture through multilateral negotiations, and is supposed to restrain the most powerful economies through agreed trade rules . It also enforces WTO agreements through its government-to government dispute resolution process .From 1995 the WTO had agreements on goods, services, agriculture, intellectual property, and other issues.

A missed opportunity for accessible medicines: WTO drops TRIPS waiver extension

February 15, 2024: After more than a year and a half of negotiations on extending the June 2022 decision on for a partial waiver on some aspects of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has formally announced that it is dropping discussions. This comes as a blow to countries such as India and South Africa which have been advocating for a TRIPS waiver extension to allow the production of more accessible COVID medicines.

New policy brief finds that the TRIPS waiver extension is a chance for the WTO to increase access to medicines and retain legitimacy

February 10, 2024: A policy brief by Rachel Thrasher from Boston University  asserts that the upcoming World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC13) is a crucial window for WTO members to act to increase access to medicines by extending the Waiver to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Community groups slam delay on TRIPS waiver inclusion of Covid-19 treatments and tests

Media Release December 15, 2022: The same dynamics that slowed and watered down the decision on the initial TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO) now look likely to prevent a timely decision on expanding the waiver to cover treatments and tests. Calls for an extension to the original deadline of 17 December 2022 being led by the EU, Switzerland, Japan and the UK have been slammed by an alliance of health, human rights and fair-trade organisations.

US retracts support for equity provisions in recent WHO Pandemic Agreement negotiations

January 31, 2024:  In recent Pandemic Agreement negotiations at the World Health Organisation (WHO), the US has rejected proposals to loosen intellectual property rules in the event of a future health emergency. These rules prevent developing countries from quickly making affordable versions of vaccines and other medicines in a future pandemic.

US COVID TRIPS report released but fails to move TRIPS waiver extension negotiations forward

25 October, 2023: World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations which commenced more than 3 years ago on temporarily waiving some intellectual property rules for COVID products like vaccines, treatments and tests have hit multiple roadblocks.  Most recently a decision has been delayed in anticipation of a report commissioned by the US. The report, released earlier this month, has been criticised for failing to add anything new to the conversation or definitively state the US’ position. Despite hopes it would create a pathway to resolving negotiations, it seems likely that a much needed decision on whether to extend a temporary waiver on intellectual property rules for COVID vaccines to other products may be further delayed past the next WTO Ministerial meeting in February 2024.

Background

The head of the WTO urges greater use of TRIPS flexibilities

21 November, 2023: Last week Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, encouraged developing countries to put in place “effective mechanisms in their domestic laws” that allow them to use flexibilities in the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement in health emergencies. This is particularly important following the lack of progress of TRIPS waiver extension negotiations, which also aimed limit the impact of medicines monopolies on access to health products in emergencies.

India, South Africa and others call for WTO General Council decision on expansion of WTO decision on COVID vaccines

12 December, 2023: Several nations, including India and South Africa, have requested that World Trade Organisation (WTO) members expand the WTO  June 2022 decision to change some rules on COVID vaccines  to include COVID treatments and tests, saying the risks of COVID remain urgent. However, the US, EU, UK, Switzerland and Japan, supported by pharmaceutical companies, have instead argued that conversation should not focus on expanding the decision but should shift to pandemic preparedness.

WTO negotiations on temporarily waiving some intellectual property rules for COVID products like vaccines, treatments and tests, intended to ensure more affordable and equitable medicines production, commenced more than 3 years ago. However, discussions have hit multiple roadblocks.

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