COVID-19 AND WORLD TRADE
The handover took place the day before a meeting of the Council for Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), where WTO members continue discussions on a revised proposal to waive certain obligations in the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19.
The WTO's Head of External Relations, Bernard Kuiten, received the petition on behalf of the organization from representatives of Avaaz and the People's Vaccine Alliance. “The WTO is very appreciative of the time and dedication that Avaaz and others continue to give to this important issue. The WTO needs to be aware of citizens' views and concerns with trade matters that could directly affect them. Avaaz and others are helping to raise awareness about access to vaccines and their vital role in ensuring a global solution to the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.
The original version of the petition, signed by over 900,000 individuals, was delivered to the WTO on 9 December 2020. The updated petition, with over 2 million signatures, has been supported by a variety of influential public figures.
Background on WTO work on COVID-19
Aside from the debate among WTO members on the specific proposal for a waiver to the TRIPS Agreement, the WTO Secretariat has been active in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has included gathering information on the range of trade policy responses put in place by governments around the globe and promoting transparency and dialogue on the range of measures taken.
In the area of intellectual property and TRIPS, the WTO has been guided by the letter and spirit of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which confirmed that the TRIPS Agreement must be framed in the context of making a positive contribution to addressing public health problems. Technical assistance for WTO members has focused on strengthening domestic capacity to assess and implement all policy options open to them.