Trade in the time of pandemics

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first female and first African leader of the World Trade Organization (WTO) argues why trade will help us find a way out of the pandemic with borders closed and global travel constrained.

The multilateral trading system is fundamental to fighting the current COVID-19 pandemic, preparing for future pandemics, and stimulating the global economic recovery. Trade barriers distort markets and create an uneven playing field, with the potential to reduce production when increased supplies are needed. To ensure that the multilateral trading system works smoothly and flexibly during a moment of global crisis, the WTO should play a more active facilitation role. It should work in close partnership with other relevant international organizations such as WHO, COVAX and the International Finance Institutions (IFIs) — to provide solutions to the pandemic.

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U.S. patent chief warns against ‘drastic’ actions in light of COVID

A top U.S. official on Tuesday dismissed calls for countries to waive intellectual property protections on vaccines and other products to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“Before any drastic measures are taken with respect to IP rights, evidence must be brought to bear that such measures are actually needed,” Andrei Iancu, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said during a discussion hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “This has not happened.”

“To the contrary, the evidence to date shows that there is an unprecedented level of cooperation in industry, and that IP has facilitated this worldwide cooperation,” Iancu added.

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Semiconductors & the WTO

This report by the Semiconductor Industry Association argues that the steady opening of markets and leveling of the global playing field spearheaded by the WTO over the past 25 years has been critical to the success of the global semiconductor industry. Given the sheer volume and complexity of global semiconductor trade, along with high capital costs and short product life-cycles, the ability to move semiconductor goods and materials freely, fairly, and efficiently across borders has been critical to the industry’s success and technological progress.

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Vaccine manufacturing and distribution: WTO perspectives

Around the world, multiple vaccines against COVID-19 are on track for regulatory approval. Arriving at safe, efficacious vaccines of consistent quality will be a major scientific achievement. No less a feat will be manufacturing and delivering COVID-19 vaccines globally – a challenge of unparalleled scale, reach, and complexity. This checklist from the WTO breaks down the regulatory, IP-related, and trade-related concerns that must be considered at each step, from development to distribution. This accompanying infographic illustrates these steps visually.

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Celebration of WTO’s 25th Anniversary

On the occasion of the WTO’s 25th anniversary, a number of representatives of the private sector, international organizations and non-governmental organizations have provided video messages where they reflect on what the WTO and the multilateral trading system means to them. They provide their thoughts on how to ensure trade continues to support economic growth, development and job creation and what they expect from the global trading system in the future.

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Virtual symposium to mark 25 years of the TRIPS Agreement

The WTO is organizing on 24 November 2020 a virtual symposium to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). This will be the first of a series of commemorative events reflecting on the impact and evolution of the most comprehensive multilateral treaty on intellectual property protection and enforcement.

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WTO: Proposal on COVID and IP by South Africa and India

During the October 2020 TRIPS Council meeting, 40 TRIPS Council members discussed a proposal submitted by India and South Africa for a temporary waiver of a broad range of TRIPS obligations. The sponsors argued that this could facilitate the global response to COVID-19. The proposal endorses a waiver for all WTO members of the implementation, application, and enforcement of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement – including all the patent protection and enforcement provisions – in order to enhance access to new therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics. This proposal warrants careful examination. IP rights will be an important tool underpinning the collaborations required to develop and get the relevant technologies to patients everywhere, and quickly. They can be expected to play a constructive and important role, thus accelerating the global COVID response.

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WTO report on COVID-19

The WTO Secretariat published this new information note warning of possible increases to trade costs due to COVID-19 disruptions. The note examines the pandemic’s impact on key components of trade costs, particularly those relating to travel and transport, trade policy, uncertainty, and identifies areas where higher costs may persist even after the pandemic is contained.

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