When the European Commission presented a proposal in June 2021 laying out its strategy on the role of intellectual property in addressing the pandemic, critics were quick to conclude that it was an effort to undermine the TRIPS waiver. Yet, many diplomats at the WTO hoped to engage in what they call “good faith negotiations”. Internal communications suggest this may not be the case.
A confidential communication sent by diplomats of a Western European Country in June 2021, has come to light that illustrates the EU’s stated reluctance to negotiate the waiver proposal. Experts suggest that it also reveals the problematic ways in which the European Commission – mandated to negotiate on trade matters at the WTO – interprets a recent resolution of the European Parliament that supported text-based negotiations on the waiver proposal.
The waiver proposal submitted in October 2020 by South Africa and India, revised in May 2021, seeks a temporary suspension of IP rules under the TRIPS Agreement at the WTO. Proponents of the waiver believe that this will boost the production of COVID-19 medical products and will help in addressing what has now become “a two-track pandemic”.
This story analyses this internal communication and seeks to understand what this means for the on-going TRIPS waiver negotiations. Geneva Health Files has reviewed it and confirmed its veracity from multiple sources. The text of the document was originally conveyed in an European language. The excerpts cited here is based on translation.
The EU’s reluctance to negotiate the waiver is well-documented over the last few months, but to read in print about its intentions on pushing its alternate proposal and a reluctance to negotiate on the waiver, is nevertheless striking.
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