TRIPS Waiver fights to stay front and center at WTO; What lies ahead for countries post-WHASS

Days after the postponement of WTO’s ministerial conference at the cusp of its convening, the proponents of the TRIPS Waiver are fighting to keep it front and center even as the emergence of a new variant has cast a spotlight on the WTO to resolve the waiver discussions to meet new challenges in the on-going pandemic.

Depending on who one speaks to, it seems that the new variant gives urgency to both the opponents and the supporters of the waiver.

One trade diplomat from an opposing group told us that the variant has underscored even more the role of the intellectual property framework in meeting the demands of this pandemic.

“The problem is not supply but distribution. The world will have 12 billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2021,” the source added. If new kinds of vaccines are needed to fight new variants, we will need IP protection, the diplomat said.

For the proponents of the waiver, the emergence of the new variant further threatens access to medical products. Much of the developing world has already been left behind with more than 80% of the vaccines being administered in richer countries. The variant could worsen these inequities, diplomats cautioned.

Despite the growing urgency to address the pandemic, WTO members have been hobbled by process and politics in order to arrive at a decision on the waiver.

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