Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
License needed for work use Register

World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


New COVID Strain Postpones WTO Meeting

New COVID strain postpones WTO meeting, confirms need to change WTO rules to share vaccine knowledge and increase global vaccine production

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Meeting scheduled for November 30-December 3 has been postponed indefinitely because the new Omicron strain of the COVID-19 virus in African countries with low vaccination rates prevents many African and other delegations from attending the meeting.

Dr Patricia Ranald, Convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, said today:

“The postponement of the WTO Ministerial Meeting exposes the shocking failure of the WTO for over a year to agree to share vaccine knowledge and increase global vaccine production to ensure access in low-income countries.”

“This new strain of the virus is a direct result of vaccination rates below 5% in African low-income countries, where millions are dying and new strains are developing.”

“WTO intellectual property rules give control of COVID vaccines and treatments to a few pharmaceutical companies, which have sold most vaccines to rich countries, making tens of billions in vaccine revenue.”

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

“Sixty-four developing countries have sponsored a temporary waiver on these WTO rules, which is supported by over 100 of the 164 WTO member countries. The waiver would enable increased production in developing countries like South Africa and India which already produce generic medicines. Booster shots and children’s vaccinations will increase global demand even more in 2022, so the waiver is even more urgent.”

“Consensus on the waiver is being blocked by a few governments from high-income countries including Germany, the EU, the UK, Switzerland which have been lobbied by their pharmaceutical industries.”

“Failure to support the waiver is a major crisis for the credibility of the WTO as an institution. Instead of acting in solidarity with all of its members the WTO is supporting the interests of global pharmaceutical companies at the expense of millions of lives.”

US President Biden has called on WTO members to waive intellectual property protections for COVID vaccines, so these vaccines can be manufactured globally, saying ‘ I endorsed this position in April; this news today reiterates the importance of moving on this quickly’.”

“The Australian government has claimed to support the waiver but has refused to sponsor it. The government has tried to have it both ways in the debate by sponsoring a draft WTO statement on trade and health which did not mention the waiver.”

“We call on the Australian Government to get off the fence and support the waiver through sponsorship and stronger advocacy. In place of the Ministerial Meeting, on-line meetings of the WTO Intellectual Property Council and the WTO General Council, which have the power to make the decision, should meet urgently to support the waiver.”

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines

UN News: Aid Access Is Key Priority

Among the key issues facing diplomats is securing the release of a reported 199 Israeli hostages, seized during the Hamas raid. “History is watching,” says Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths. “This war was started by taking those hostages. Of course, there's a history between Palestinian people and the Israeli people, and I'm not denying any of that. But that act alone lit a fire, which can only be put out with the release of those hostages.” More

Save The Children: Four Earthquakes In a Week Leave Thousands Homeless

Families in western Afghanistan are reeling after a fourth earthquake hit Herat Province, crumbling buildings and forcing people to flee once again, with thousands now living in tents exposed to fierce winds and dust storms. The latest 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit 30 km outside of Herat on Sunday, shattering communities still reeling from strong and shallow aftershocks. More


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.