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Failure To Drop Vaccine Patents Amounts To More Deaths, Proof Of WTO’s Inhumanity Says Groups

Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) together with global movements of civil society and grassroots organizations, doctors and health workers mark November 30 as the International Day of Action Against World Trade Organization (WTO) to protest decades-long destructive trade deals.

“This global trade regime is to blame for the continued deaths in the pandemic. WTO has stolen our right to health, livelihood and for it to continue to exist would cost us our lives and our future,” says activist Liza Maza in front of farmers and workers who are also commemorating the birth anniversary of anti-colonial Filipino hero Andres Bonificio in Manila, Tuesday.

In its 26 years of existence, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its neoliberal framework in trade have been opposed globally as it intensified global inequality and violation of rights and loss of human dignity.

The WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) was supposed to start on November 30 and run until December 3 but was postponed after COVID strain Omicron was declared a variant of concern. However, WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala said that negotiations will continue in the coming days.

Even before the postponement of the MC12, there had been a deadlock in the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver negotiations. According to Maza, more deadly mutations of the COVID-19 virus could have been prevented if patents for the vaccine and treatments have been waived. “A no response from the waiver amounts to inaction and culpability to the rising COVID-19 deaths in the world. This is inhumane,” Maza adds.

Last October 2020, India and South Africa proposed the TRIPS waiver and was later supported by more than 100 countries. Addressed to the WTO, the waiver seeks to remove intellectual property rights barriers for the vaccine and COVID-19 prevention, containment and treatment technologies. More than a year later, a resolution is nowhere in sight.

"The TRIPS was really put as an issue of trade, rather than an issue of health. It's not just COVID-19 that's killing the global people, we are being killed by many diseases because antibiotics are very expensive, and because they are still covered by patents,” says Edelina de la Paz, MD, of the Coalition for People’s Right to Health.

“The only time WTO can be relevant in this health emergency, they failed to rise up to the challenge of urgently passing the TRIPS waiver. This speaks volumes on how much they care more about profit of Big Pharma than human lives,” says POP, a network of organisations campaigning against free trade agreements (FTAs) and corporate plunder.

Railroading anti-people agreements despite MC12 postponement

Workers, farmers and the rural people have been facing impacts of WTO policies such as the Agreement on Agriculture, Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and TRIPS. “These agreements forced governments to amend laws at the expense of their citizens’ right to livelihood, services, land and resources,'' says POP of whcih APRN is a member of.

The WTO has been negotiating the fisheries subsidies for more than 20 years. However, fisherfolk groups and environmentalists have been asserting that it will do more harm than good.

Last week, the head of the fisheries subsidies negotiations, submitted a draft agreement to WTO ministers and promised a resolution amid MC12 postponement. With text-based negotiations now being fast-tracked, groups accused the WTO of railroading the agreement and questioned its sincerity on the issue.

“If they really want to address this, we should be talking about fisheries subsidies on the basis of social justice, right to food, right to work and equal remuneration, right to adequate standard of living, and towards food sovereignty, environmental protection, and genuine development for the people,” says Pamalakaya Pilipinas chairperson Fernando Hicap who marched in the one of the globally coordinated actions versus WTO.

Replace WTO with a new pro-people trade regime

Campaign network POP released a petition statement denouncing the WTO’s pandemic ‘recovery plan’. Signed by more than 100 organisations, the statement scored the plan “for promoting further liberalization and deregulation of trade and commerce” as a solution. It underlines that these are “the very tenets of neoliberalism that brought the world to this crisis to begin with.”

“It is high time for ‘[a] new trade treaty to establish a new international economic order in trade and development under the UN. We need to develop trade rules and mechanisms to promote development and restore the responsibility of governments to ensure equitable role of foreign trade premised on the benefit of the people,” says Antonio Tujan, Jr. of the Institute of Political Economy who is participating in the global action.

No postponement of protests vs WTO

“This global regime on trade has ravaged and destroyed lives and livelihoods, violated our basic rights, and has irreversibly damaged the environment and the planet. It has already failed the people of the world therefore it has no integrity to tell us how to recover and build a better world,” People over Profit said in its collective statement.

The MC12 may have been postponed, but definitely not the planned protests around the world. Today, November 30, social movements from the Global South will register their rejection of the WTO and its neoliberal agenda.

“There is no postponement in fighting for the people's rights to a future without plunder and neoliberal greed. Now, we not just condemn its inutility amid this health emergency but we are determined to forge a future without WTO,” Maza ends.

© Scoop Media

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