Slideshow: “MC12” WTO Ministerial Conference
At the WTO’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference WTO Members should agree new trade rules to support the global response to COVID-19, accelerate the economic recovery, and enhance future pandemic preparedness. WTO Members should eliminate tariffs on health products, including finished therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines, as well as the active pharmaceutical ingredients, raw materials, chemicals, other inputs and intermediaries, and specialty equipment used to invent, manufacture, and deploy these products.
South Korea launches task force on vaccine and lays out new approach to trade
With the launch of a task force on vaccine production South Korea aims to become the world’s fifth-largest vaccine-producing nation in the next four years. President Moon Jae-in said South Korea aims to become the world’s fifth-largest vaccine-producing nation in the next four years. Moon has pledged to designate vaccine development as one of the nation’s three strategic technology areas, along with those of semiconductors and batteries, and invest 2.2 trillion won (US$1.92 billion) in the next five years (read the full story here).
Furthermore, according to Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo, South Korea will present a new concept for trade in five important sectors, including pharmaceuticals. Korea will provide the necessary support to companies producing vaccines to enter the global vaccine supply and establish bases in countries where major vaccine producers are located. The country will seek to reduce tariffs on vaccines through partnership with World Trade Organisation member countries (read the full story here).
Trade restrictions are delaying the COVID response. The WTO must act
Together with Thaddeus Burns, Innovation Council member Merck LF, Jennifer Brant has co-authored a paper on the delay in the COVID response caused by trade restrictions and explains why the WTO must act. The human costs of the pandemic, already dire, continue to mount. Vaccines against COVID have been developed at an unprecedented pace through a series of unprecedented partnerships. But this is not the end of the story; there is still an urgent need to expand vaccine protection worldwide, including through the expansion of biologic drug production capacity.
HS codes relevant to inputs for COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics
Bio-pharmaceutical R&D and manufacturing inputs include: chemical or biological reagents; equipment used in laboratories; microscope parts; equipment for manufacturing such as single-use bioreactors; and the full range of raw materials used for R&D and production of vaccines and other bio-pharmaceuticals, such as guanidine thiocyanate. Researchers use these tools to make scientific breakthroughs, and bio-pharmaceutical companies rely on them to discover, develop, validate, and manufacture lifesaving vaccines, drugs, and therapies – including those necessary to address COVID-19 and future global health crises.
Some countries impose tariffs on bio-pharmaceutical inputs, in some cases as high as 25%. This raises costs and makes it more difficult for fledgling producers to compete. Eliminating tariffs on bio-pharmaceutical inputs could help to resolve some of the current global distribution challenges for COVID-related products, thereby helping to make the global COVID-19 response more equitable, affordable, and sustainable.
Unilateral elimination of COVID-19 related tariffs would provide substantial benefits in terms of the short-term dissemination of pharmaceutical inputs and vaccines. Ultimately, however, tariff elimination should be made permanent and should cover a broader range of products. This would create legal certainty and predictability for actors along global value chains.
An appropriate vehicle for tariff elimination on inputs could be the WTO plurilateral agreement known as Zero for Zero, for which product coverage should be expanded to include the full range of COVID-19 bio-pharmaceutical inputs. In this respect, Innovation Council has developed a list of HS codes showing tariffs related to the inputs used for developing and producing COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. The list was developed in partnership with private sector actors in these value chains. A list of COVID-19 MFN product examples is available here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.