Could Vaccine Nationalism Spur Disputes At The WTO?

Experts believe that the solution to vaccine nationalism is not filing disputes, but negotiations. But lawyers anticipate disputes even if filed simply for political leverage.

Vaccine nationalism, a condition that has flourished during COVID-19, is loosely understood as the tendency of countries to hoard vaccines. But protectionist trade practices of hoarding medical supplies began as soon as the pandemic hit. This is now taking a serious turn with export restriction measures adopted by some countries. This could lead to a real possibility of countries taking the legal route to file disputes at the WTO, even if only for political leverage, experts say.

Geneva Health Files spoke to legal experts, lawyers and delegations of some countries for this story. Will rising protectionism to address the pandemic relate to a rash of WTO disputes? Yes and no, depending on who you speak to.

Earlier this week, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WTO DG, said that 59 members and 7 observers, had some pandemic-related export restrictions or licensing requirements in place at the end of February, primarily for personal protective equipment. She pointed out that these figures were lower than the 91 countries that had brought in such measures over the past year. 

Image Credit: Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels


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