WTO meeting on Covid-19 vaccine rights waiver went 'very well': Chair

Wealthy countries have raised objections to the waiver on the grounds that it could harm pharmaceutical research. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (REUTERS) - The first World Trade Organisation meeting to discuss a draft agreement to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines went "very well", its chair said on Friday (May 6).

The WTO's 164 members on Friday discussed the "outcome document" that stems from months of negotiations between the main parties - the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa - in an effort to break an 18-month deadlock over the issue.

"It went very well and here's why I say that. No member rejected the outcome as completely unacceptable," Ambassador Lansana Gberie from Sierra Leone told Reuters after the closed-door meeting.

"Most said this could be developed into a negotiating text and that's the trajectory we have to follow.".

The waiver idea, proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020, is supported by the majority of members of the global trade body.

But some wealthy countries including Britain and Switzerland have raised objections on grounds that it could harm pharmaceutical research.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has been involved in brokering the talks and wants a deal by the June ministerial conference, says an agreement would be "hugely important".

The new draft deal, which has unresolved areas, must pass by consensus and any member of the organisation has the right to a veto.

One delegate described Friday's meeting as the moment the deal would "float or sink".

Privately, some delegates have said that a lack of public support for the deal by the main negotiating parties has sapped confidence among other members.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.