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A controversial proposal before the World Trade Organization to waive patent rights for Covid-19 vaccines is taking a significant step forward, as a recently reached compromise draft agreement is slated to be sent next week to the agency’s General Council for review.

The move follows an informal session held in Geneva, Switzerland, where various provisions were discussed. Several weeks ago, the European Union, South Africa, India, and the United States came to a tentative understanding about advancing the proposal, which was first introduced in late 2020 to widen access to Covid-19 medical products.


Although clarifications were made during the session, certain points must still be negotiated, such as whether a deal runs three or five years, according to a trade official in Geneva. A WTO group working on the effort is scheduled to meet on Friday and then send a report to the WTO General Council, which meets on Monday. Consensus is needed from all 164 WTO members for an agreement to take effect.

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