While there is still no major breakthrough in the talks, Sørli told an informal meeting of the WTO TRIPS Council that he detected a shared view — expressed initially by the European Union — that vaccine manufacturers that are able and ready to produce COVID-19 vaccines should be put in a position to start producing without worrying about a patent.
A number of delegations agreed that this could be achieved either through existing TRIPS flexibilities or a TRIPS waiver, but views diverged over whether different burdens were associated with either approach, the Geneva trade official said. At a separate meeting on Wednesday, a number of members reported that they were actively engaged in frank and candid bilateral discussions to find a solution, even though there was nothing concrete to report yet.
Lange said during a visit to Washington last week that the European Parliament was “not totally against the waiver,” but the real challenge was increasing the number of vaccine production facilities around the world. He also said South Africa and India’s proposal for a waiver on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics was “unacceptable” because it covered too many products.
Lange also expressed hope that efforts by New Zealand Ambassador David Walker to produce a “trade and health” agreement covering areas like tariffs on medical goods and export restrictions could be reached. However, that is expected to be more of a political document, rather than a package of binding commitments.