© Reuters. A man attends a demonstration for an intellectual property rights waiver for COVID-19 vaccines and supplies aside from meeting of the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquart
GENEVA (Reuters) – The four main parties to negotiate on an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines have prepared an “outcome document” for approval by the broader membership, the WTO said on Tuesday, with its chief hoping for a final deal by June.
WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has made vaccine equity her top priority since taking office in 2021, has been working for months to broker a compromise between the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa to break an 18- month-long impasse.
“What the discussions were aiming at was coming up with something workable,” Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters, saying she hoped the WTO’s 164 members would finalise and approve the proposal by a major conference in June. “This will advance the discussion and dialogue. For the next pandemic or a flare up of this one, this is hugely important,” she said.
The document showed that there were still unresolved areas in the draft deal, including on the duration of the waver’s application which could be either three or five years.
Okonjo-Iweala said recent negotiations had focused on getting broader support for the deal, including from China. She said Beijing had indicated it was “favorably disposed” to being considered as a developed country in this deal and thus subject to stricter rules. The Chinese mission to the WTO in Geneva did not immediately respond to a request for comment.