At WTO, Some Developing Countries: “No Waiver – No Walker”; Destination undecided, but countries divided over legal route for new WHO instrument

With just days left for the 12th WTO ministerial, members are yet to reach a decision on the TRIPS waiver – one of the most important deliverables for this meeting. While the waiver decision may hold the key to the success or failure of this event, it is emerging as a key bargaining chip for developing countries in trying to steer the overall outcomes from this ministerial, according to trade diplomats.

There was already pressure building on the opponents to the waiver as hours towards the ministerial get smaller. In a dramatic turn of events, the rise of a new variant detected by South Africa, adds once again an urgency for the resolution of this stalemate which has plagued WTO for more than a year. For once, could raw epidemiology trump cold-blooded calculations of trade and economic considerations that have dictated countries’ position on the waiver proposal?

Even at this juncture though, major members including the US, EU and others, are holding on to their cards, to weigh the waiver in the larger context of other considerations at WTO particularly future reforms of the WTO, the deal on fisheries, among others, according to multiple trade sources familiar with the fast-changing dynamics of these discussions.

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