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CSO Statements in Response to Shameful Result on Intellectual Property and Covid at 12th WTO Ministerial

In the wee hours of the morning, WTO members announced they reached consensus on the WTO’s response to the pandemic that includes a text related to the TRIPS agreement and Covid vaccines that public health organizations and experts have vigorously opposed. More than 250 public health, labor, human rights, and consumer organizations from across the globe are now calling on governments to bypass the WTO’s prioritization of pharmaceutical monopolies over human lives.


Civil Society Statements From the U.S. and Around the World:

Public Citizen: Undemocratic WTO Processes Produce Shameful Result on Intellectual Property and Covid at 12th WTO Ministerial
Melinda St. Louis, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

“The result today is that, once again, the shameful, undemocratic WTO process allowed rich countries representing corporate interests to strongarm a sham agreement that bears no resemblance to the original waiver proposal and will do nothing to help save lives for this or future pandemics.

The worldwide movement that supported countries in the Global South that proposed a comprehensive TRIPS waiver and fought valiantly for nearly two years, will not throw in the towel, just because WTO members decided to today.”


Trade Justice Education Fund: 298 Public Health, Labor & Other Groups Condemn WTO’s Failure to Waive Rules Standing in the Way of COVID Vaccine & Treatment Access
Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director of the Trade Justice Education Fund

“Two years into a pandemic that has already killed an estimated 15 million people, the WTO continues to prioritize protecting pharmaceutical monopoly profits over protecting human lives. Governments that want to prevent the vaccine apartheid that characterized the rollout of first-generation COVID vaccines from being replicated with new COVID treatments and second-generation vaccines will now need to take action outside of the WTO’s intellectual property rules, while also pledging not to initiate trade disputes against other countries for doing so.”


Médicins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders: Lack of a real IP waiver on COVID-19 tools is a disappointing failure for people
Dr Christos Christou, International President of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)

“This agreement fails overall to offer an effective and meaningful solution to help increase people’s access to needed medical tools during the pandemic; it does not adequately waive intellectual property on all essential COVID-19 medical tools, and it does not apply to all countries. The measures outlined in the decision will not address pharmaceutical monopolies or ensure affordable access to lifesaving medical tools, and will set a negative precedent for future global health crises and pandemics.”

Médicins Sans Frontières Access Campaign: What we got and why it’s so wrong, What we have lost, Where we go from here

The struggle for fair access to medicines has been struck a terrible blow following the adoption by the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week of an inadequate text rather than the originally proposed “TRIPS Waiver” on COVID monopolies, championed by MSF, civil society and over 100 countries.

The final text – adopted last Friday after tense, week-long discussions at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva – is a huge disappointment for everyone who campaigned so passionately for over 20 months for a real waiver on patent and other intellectual-property (IP) barriers to lifesaving COVID medicines, tests and vaccines for all.

Oxfam: WTO agrees a deal on patents for COVID vaccines – but campaigners say this is absolutely not the broad intellectual property waiver the world desperately needs
Max Lawson, Co-Chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance and Head of Inequality Policy at Oxfam

“This is absolutely not the broad intellectual property waiver the world desperately needs to ensure access to vaccines and treatments for everyone, everywhere. The EU, UK, US, and Switzerland blocked that text. This so-called compromise largely reiterates developing countries’ existing rights to override patents in certain circumstances. And it tries to restrict even that limited right to countries which do not already have the capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines. Put simply, it is a technocratic fudge aimed at saving reputations, not lives.

The conduct of rich countries at the WTO has been utterly shameful. The EU has blocked anything that resembles a meaningful intellectual property waiver. The UK and Switzerland have used negotiations to twist the knife and make any text even worse. And the US has sat silently in negotiations with red lines designed to limit the impact of any agreement.”


Public Sevices International: WTO kneels to Big Pharma at Ministerial Conference

“After more than 6 million deaths and a two-year global campaign for a waiver of intellectual property barriers to deal with Covid-19, the WTO failed the world and kneeled to big pharma at its Ministerial Conference that concluded in Geneva this morning.

Instead of adopting the comprehensive TRIPS waiver proposed by more than 100 countries, the WTO adopted a woefully inadequate text that does little more than clarify existing rules of the TRIPS agreement. The watered down text was adopted because the EU, UK and Switzerland sided with big pharmaceutical companies and blocked the proposed text for almost 2 years.”


Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union

“Prioritizing intellectual property protections over human lives is a craven abandonment of government’s duty to secure the common good. It risks the lives of billions in need of life-saving medicines and treatments while undermining the health and security of the entire planet. Governments must act now.” 


Rethink Trade: Rethink Trade Condemns WTO Failure to Waive IP Barriers Blocking Global Access to COVID Vaccines, Treatments, Tests
Lori Wallach, Director of Rethink Trade at the American Economic Liberties Project

“This outcome is a dangerous public health fail that threatens us with more deadly COVID variants and more economic pain, but it’s also a vulgar display of multilateralism’s demise when a few rich countries flacking for pharmaceutical corporations get an assist from a global institution’s staff to block the will of 100-plus countries united to improve access to medicines in a deadly pandemic. Rethink Trade supports the unions and civil society organizations throughout Africa, Asian, and Latin American that called on their governments to reject this text.

Going forward, efforts for global access to COVID vaccines, treatments and tests can only escalate in scope and tactics given the WTO legal mechanism designed for such emergencies has failed.”


Health GAP: Statement from Asia Russell, Health GAP Executive Director, on the Failure of the WTO’s MC12 to Deliver a TRIPS Waiver for COVID-19 Vaccines, Treatments, and Tests
Asia Russell, Health GAP Executive Director

“The WTO Director General and wealthy country member states have delivered an unworkable plan that is a net subtraction from what countries already could do under existing TRIPS provisions. The agreement includes no additional flexibilities for pandemic responses and currently excludes diagnostic tests and medicines. It imposes a regime mired in red tape around compulsory licensing for vaccines and excludes access to trade secrets and know-how. This is unworkable and the DG and wealthy country negotiators know it… The world will increasingly confront new pandemic emergencies. The WTO proved this week that it is not up to the challenges we face now or in the future.”


Knowledge Ecology International: The June 17, 2022 WTO Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement
James Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International

“The big pharma industry can be pleased with the precedents on notifications and anti-diversion, which are important to them, as well as the exclusion of most vaccine manufacturers and the 5-year duration.

It is hard to imagine anything with fewer benefits than this, as a response to a global health emergency (other than the earlier negotiating texts for this Decision). The fact that the exception is limited to vaccines, has a five-year duration and does not address WTO rules on trade secrets makes it particularly unlikely to provide expanded access to COVID 19 countermeasures.”

South Centre: TRIPS Waiver: An Insufficient Multilateral Response. TRIPS-Consistent National Actions Are Called For

“The process leading to the Decision confirms the need to fully use the TRIPS flexibilities to address emergency and other situations where public health and other public interests are at stake, and to review the current international IP regime (including article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement) to accelerate the sharing of technology, including know-how. The South Centre remains ready to support national and regional efforts to this end.”

Geneva Health Files: Trade Won, Health Did Not. A Sliver of a Waiver at the WTO.

“A soothing wind blew across the lakeside where the WTO is situated, calming frayed nerves of sleepless diplomats and tired trade geeks. This was the evening before the marathon ministerial conference which ended on June 17.

A senior ambassador, was reflecting on his perspectives on the TRIPS Waiver discussions at the WTO. ‘They have made changes within the rulebook. They could not have kept the rulebook aside’, he told me during a spontaneous conversation. That, in essence captured the past 20 months.”

Institute for new Economic Thinking: The World Trade Organization After the 12th Ministerial Conference
Deborah James, Director of International Programs, Center for Economic Policy and Research


Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network Ltd: Civil society groups say WTO decision on COVID-19 monopolies is weak and unworkable
Dr. Patricia Ranald, Convener of AFTINET

“The EU, UK and Switzerland have used the WTO rules for consensus to put the interests of pharmaceutical companies above human lives. This weak WTO decision will not enable adequate access for low-income countries because it excludes many forms of monopolies, includes only vaccines when treatments are also needed, and creates more restrictions than existing WTO rules. Governments must take stronger action to save lives during this and future pandemics.”

Third World Network: Exclusionary unrepresentative processes behind the celebrated MC12 ‘Package’
Kinda Mohamadieh, Legal Advisor & Senior Researcher

“Small group configurations, or what is sometimes referred to as ‘Green Rooms’, dominated MC12 negotiation processes before and during the Ministerial meeting. They were the privileged format in which all negotiations took place, including those on the ministerial outcome document (i.e. main Ministerial Declaration), on items on agriculture and food security, on fisheries subsidies, as well as those on the TRIPS Agreement decision and the e-commerce moratorium. This meant that MC12 kept with previous controversial experiences at the WTO and took them to a new extreme, proving to be highly challenging for developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to effectively take part in the negotiations on key documents that would shape the future of the organization and the multilateral trading system.”

IBON International: The World Trade Organization’s failed pandemic response
JC Navera, Policy Advisor – Trade and Investment

“Instead of leaving public health to a handful of pharmaceutical corporations, governments need to move away from patents and consider alternative ways to incentivize innovation for lifesaving products that do not rely on creating artificial monopolies. We have to demand accountability from governments and corporations that allowed for the policy and market failure that exacerbated the pandemic. We need to urge policymakers to take steps toward the creation of an international publicly-funded biomedical and pharmaceutical research infrastructure that can listen to science and put the lives and livelihood of billions of people above corporate profit.”

For More Information

Democracy Now!: Activists Say WTO Deal on Vaccine Patents Is “Sham” Dictated by Rich Nations

Democracy Now!: Human Rights & Public Health Groups Blast WTO Deal on COVID Patents

In These Times: The Spectacular Failure of the WTO To Fight Covid

PoliticoPro EU: Why the WTO’s vaccine deal is a nothingburger for global health

The Toronto Star: Why a new international vaccine deal is being called a ‘devastating global failure’

Take Action

Tell Biden: No Retaliation Against Countries Who Bypass WTO Rules to Fight COVID.

World Trade Organization members have failed the international community by inking a deal that fails to remove intellectual property obstacles to COVID vaccines, test and treatments.

More than 250 public health, labor, human rights, and consumer organizations from across the globe are now calling on governments to bypass the WTO’s prioritization of pharmaceutical monopolies over human lives.

Tell President Biden to commit the U.S. to unilaterally refraining from using WTO or other trade rules to retaliate against countries for producing, distributing or using COVID medical technologies or from sharing information on how to do so.


  • Global Trade Watch Action
  • Justice Is Global
  • R2H Action [Right to Health]
  • Progressive Democrats of America
  • Fight for the Future
  • Health GAP
  • ActionAid USA
  • Marked By COVID