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Global Mov’t Underscores Decades Of Destructive Trade Deals, Calls For A Future Without WTO

WTO’s failure to drop vaccine patents contributed to 2 million death toll says groups

“This global regime on trade stole our right to health, livelihood and now, if left unopposed, next for the looting is our future,” says Filipina activist Liza Maza in a global event on the agreements enforced by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In an online gathering, civil society and grassroots organisations together with doctors and health workers from around the world denounced the WTO for its culpability in the death of millions due to the pandemic.
“Its failure to waive the intellectual property barriers for the vaccine speaks volumes on how much the WTO cares more about profit of Big Pharma than human lives,” says Edelina de la Paz, MD, of the Coalition for People’s Right to Health.

Last October 2020, more than 100 countries proposed the waiver of the Trade Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for the vaccine and COVID-19 prevention, containment and treatment technologies to the WTO. More than a year later, a waiver is nowhere in sight.

The stalled negotiations on the monopoly deferrals earned not just the ire of health professionals but of workers and people’s movements.

“[The WTO] has failed to enable the production of COVID-19 vaccines as a global public good and this has contributed to the deaths of at least 2 million people so far,” says Workers International Struggles Initiatives (WORKINS) spokesperson Peter Murphy in the online event.

The intergovernmental trade regime has yet to respond to the urgent waiver as Big Pharmaceuticals have expressed strong opposition to it. It announced that member states will just continue to discuss the waiver up until the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference this November 30 in Geneva, Switzerland.

“People are dying everyday as the WTO continues to avoid the issue of the TRIPS waiver. Our lives and health is not up for debate. Blocking it prolongs this pandemic and denies vaccines, treatments, and the right to health of millions of people,” says Maza who is also the General Secretary of the International League of Peoples Struggle, one of the co-organisers of the webinar. 

Speaking live in the online event, Antonio Tujan from the Institute of Political Economy, proposed a solution which is to do away with the WTO TRIPS altogether. According to him, it only “strengthens corporate protection” and instead, agreements on patents should “support public access to knowledge, promote local entrepreneurship secondary to public investment, economic development and production.”

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