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Undemocratic WTO Processes Produce Shameful Result on Intellectual Property and Covid at 12th WTO Ministerial

CONTACT: Matthew Groch, mgroch@citizen.org

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.

In response, Melinda St. Louis, Global Trade Watch director at Public Citizen, issued the following statement:

“It’s shameful that today, WTO members prioritized trying to save a floundering institution and obscene corporate profits over saving lives.

“In the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic that shuttered the global economy, it was a no-brainer that the WTO should have immediately delivered an emergency waiver of its own intellectual property rules that impede rapid production of Covid vaccines, tests, and treatments.

“And yet, the European Union blocked meaningful action on an overwhelmingly popular waiver of the TRIPS agreement for nearly two years. Despite its expressed support for a waiver, the United States did not do nearly enough to deliver a meaningful outcome, and even blocked efforts to include tests and treatments as well as vaccines.

“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.

“As U.S. civil society organizations, we demand that the U.S. government, having failed to deliver on President Biden’s promise to remove intellectual property barriers to vaccines at the WTO, pledge unilaterally to refrain from using WTO or other trade and investment dispute mechanisms to stop or dissuade countries from producing, distributing or using Covid medical technologies or from sharing information on how to do so.”