Deconstructing the TRIPS Waiver Discussions: The Susan Sell Interview

In June 2022, the World Trade Organization adopted a decision at its 12th Ministerial Conference, that could potentially help facilitate easier production of COVID-19 vaccines. This was the outcome of a 20-month long discussion at the WTO on the so-called TRIPS Waiver. But ultimately what resulted was a rather narrow legal mechanism, essentially clarifying existing rules in the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

For many, this outcome was not entirely surprising. Susan K Sell from the Australian National University has long examined and explored the nature of the TRIPS Agreement and the politics at the WTO.

We spoke with Sell during her recent visit to Geneva in July 2022. She is a Professor at the School of Regulation and Global Governance at Australian National University and is Emeritus Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University. She has published widely on the politics of intellectual property, including private power, public law, global governance, and public health.

During her recent visit, she had a session on 21st Century Capitalism and Intellectual Property: A Research Agenda, at the Geneva Graduate Institute.

In this interview, Sell explains why words matter and how the waiver discussions, though disappointing, have broadened and shifted the conversation on intellectual property and public health forever. In her conversation with Geneva Health Files, Sell also says she is optimistic about discussions on a new instrument to govern pandemics at the WHO. Read on.

Photo by Scott Webb: Pexels

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