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WTO members should ensure access to affordable medicines

25 November, 2020IndustriALL Global Union is calling on members of WTO to support the TRIPS corona waiver proposal and ensure affordable access to medicines.

The Covid-19 pandemic has deeply affected the world of work, with millions of workers losing their jobs. The production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, and associated economic activities, are faced with unprecedented disruption and an uncertain future. As the global economy slips into recession, going beyond a health crisis, the pandemic challenges the fundamentals of the world’s social, political and economic security.

Access to affordable medicines, tools, vaccines, diagnostics and treatment for Covid-19 is paramount for a recovery from the crisis. No one should be left behind and no one is safe until everyone is protected.  Since the start of the pandemic, there have been calls for coordinated efforts to for the production of medical products, for sharing technology and for ensuring access to affordable treatments.

Many countries face shortages of medical products and access to diagnostics, testing and treatment. To overcome these challenges, in particular those caused by the WTO’s Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), India and South Africa have proposed a waiver of certain provisions for the prevention, containment and treatment of Covid-19.

The waiver proposal underlines that

‘intellectual property rights including such as patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of undisclosed information do not create barriers to the timely access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products essential to combat Covid-19.’

The World Health Organization (WHO) has welcomed these proposals. The waiver from the rules are important as existing flexibilities within TRIPS agreement have limitations and countries which do not have manufacturing capacity need to follow cumbersome procedures to import medical products, limiting their ability to save those in dire needs.

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary, says:

"Working people around the world need rapid access to affordable medical products and governments need to collaborate and act swiftly to ensure access and stop avoidable deaths. Monopoly and profiteering in a pandemic are unacceptable. Affordable and equitable distribution of therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines should be the priority.

"To this end, we call on WTO members to support the adoption of the Covid-19 TRIPS waiver proposal."

Together with other global unions, IndustriALL has endorsed a global civil society statement, signed by over 400 national and international organizations.