The Council on Trade Intellectual Property Rights met Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the issue critical to increasing vaccine production and combating inequality in access.
Decisions in the WTO are taken unanimously among the 164 member states.
Some members stressed the risk of failure “if delegations do not reach a serious compromise,” adding that successful consensus on the issue at the ministerial meeting “would not only send a strong message of international solidarity, but would also prove that the WTO has the capacity to respond to a major global crisis.” “.
Norway’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Devin Sorley, acknowledged that the Council on Intellectual Property Rights, which he chairs, “is not yet in a position to agree on a tangible and positive outcome at this stage.”
He said he would “continue to consult with members on how to move towards consensus” ahead of the ministerial meeting to be held from November 30 to December 3 in Geneva.
Further consultations are scheduled for October 26.
The General Council, which is the decision-making body in the World Trade Organization, meets between every two ministerial meetings, on November 22-23 to discuss the file.
For a year, the World Trade Organization has been receiving calls from India and South Africa to lift intellectual property rights over Corona vaccines temporarily, in order to stimulate production in developing countries and address the stark disparities in access to them. The World Health Organization has supported this initiative, as have many other countries and NGOs.
But the idea is facing fierce opposition from major drug companies and their host countries, which consider patents not a major obstacle to increasing vaccine production and fear the measure will harm the ability to innovate.
Observers criticize the slow course of the debate, while the epidemic has killed 4.9 million people around the world, and at a time when rich countries are recording a vaccination rate thirty times higher than poor and developing countries.