In a widely anticipated meeting, a World Trade Organization council failed to act on a controversial proposal to temporarily waive some provisions in a trade agreement governing intellectual property rights, which would make Covid-19 medical products more easily accessible, especially by low-income countries.
During the closed-door session, which took place on Thursday, several wealthy nations reiterated arguments that patent rights do not create barriers to wider access and affordability. The U.S., for instance, suggested a more targeted approach in which a license could be granted to a generic manufacturer to make a specific product for distribution in certain countries.
Nonetheless, the proposal — which was made by South Africa and India, and has drawn support from hundreds of advocacy groups — does not appear dead, for now. A WTO communiqué that summarized the session also indicated that, rather than wait for the next regularly scheduled meeting in March, the issue could be revisited at another meeting that could be held in January of February.