Global Economy

License more manufacturing sites in developing nations to produce vaccines: WTO DG

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has called for the member countries to work with companies to license more manufacturing sites in developing countries and technology transfer citing “serious supply scarcity”.

Addressing the WTO General Council after taking office on March 1, she said that the world has a normal capacity to produce 3.5 billion doses of vaccines and now it seeks to manufacture 10 billion doses.

“This is just very difficult, so we must focus on working with companies to open up and license more viable manufacturing sites now in emerging markets and developing countries,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

Her statement assumes significance in the wake of a joint proposal by India and South Africa, that now is supported by 57 WTO members, seeking a temporary waiver in global intellectual property agreements to ensure uninterrupted flow of vaccines amid the ongoing pandemic.

The proposal calls for a waiver for all WTO members of certain provisions of copyrights, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information in the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19.

“We have a demand for a TRIPS waiver by a growing number of developing countries and the dialogue is intensifying,” she said, adding that simultaneously focus should be on the immediate needs of poor countries that have yet to vaccinate a single person.

Okonjo-Iweala said there will soon be a world manufacturing convention wherein a dialogue and information exchange between the WTO members and representatives of manufacturers associations from developing and developed countries, can be initiated.

“This will be an interim solution whilst we continue the dialogue on the TRIPS waiver,” she said.

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S&DT, new initiatives

The director-general asked the members to sharpen the approach to special and differential treatment as it crucial to the policy space of Least Developed Countries in particular.

“For the rest, let us review the work on e-commerce, investment facilitation, Services Domestic Regulation, MSMEs, Women in Trade, and Trade and Climate to see what aspects of these important work programs we can advance at MC12,”

she said.

Okonjo-Iweala suggested that three or four clear deliverables be finalised before the twelfth ministerial conference (MC12) of the WTO and work programmes for the rest to be agreed at MC12.

“I have noticed that more and more of the work and decision making that should be undertaken at the WTO is being done elsewhere because there is an increasing loss of confidence in the ability of the WTO to produce results. But there is hope. If we all accept that we can no longer do business as usual, that will help us create the parameters for success,” she said.

The WTO MC12 will take place in November in Geneva. It was originally scheduled to take place in June 2020 in Kazakhstan but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


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