In October 2020, India and South Africa jointly proposed that WTO-enforced intellectual property rights obligations related to patents, copyright, industrial designs, and clinical data should be suspended for the duration of the pandemic. This elegant, temporary initiative, called the TRIPS Waiver propsal, would have made possible an equitable and truly international public health response to COVID-19 that the WTO intellectual property rights regime impedes.
Despite enjoying widespread support from over 100 WTO member governments, a few countries, led by the European Union, delayed negotiations on the waiver into the spring of 2022. Canada often claimed it did not oppose the waiver, but it did not support it either, which contributed to deadlock on the proposal in the halls of the WTO. A much limited version of the waiver covering vaccines only, and for only five years, was agreed by WTO members at a ministerial in June 2022.
Global civil society organizations including the CCPA are extremely disappointed with this outcome. But on a positive note, the debate about the waiver has drawn international attention to the barriers that intellectual property rights put before accesss to medicines and public health.
On June 16, 2022, nearly 300 CSOs issued a post-ministerial statement urging all governments to:
1. Pledge not to use the WTO’s and other trade and investment agreements’ dispute mechanisms or other means in an attempt to stop or dissuade countries from producing, distributing or using medical technologies or from sharing information on how to do so regardless of WTO and free trade agreement IP rules;
2. Take every step necessary to save lives and end the pandemic, including by fully using the WTO’s existing, albeit limited, flexibilities;
3. Circumvent the WTO’s pharmaceutical monopoly rules when possible and outright defy those rules when needed.
Read the full statement here.
COVID-19 waiver resources (oldest to newest)
- Civil society letter supporting India's and South Africa's proposal for a TRIPS Agreement waiver for COVID-19 treatments (Oct 15, 2020)
- WTO: A missed opportunity to put people before patents, Amnesty International (Oct 16, 2020)
- COVID-19 drug and vaccine patents are putting profit before people, Ronald Labonte and Mira Johri, Behind the Numbers (Nov 5, 2020)
- Letter to Ministers Ng and Bains from the HIV Legal Network (Nov 15, 2020)
- Open letter from Ron Labonte, Professor and Distinguished Research Chair, Globalization and Health Equity at the University of Ottawa (Nov 18, 2020). If you are a health professional and wish to add your signature, please contact [email protected].
- India and South Africa proposal for WTO waiver from IP protections for COVID-19-related medical technologies, Médecins Sans Frontières (Nov 18, 2020)
- Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' letter to Ministers Ng and Champagne (Nov 19, 2020)
- Open letter from International Development Studies department at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax (Nov 23, 2020)
- Canadian Labour Congress letter in support of the TRIPS waiver (Nov 25, 2020)
- Trudeau's vaccine hypocrisy harmful to poorer countries, Gavin Fridell and Rylan Higgins, Halifax Chronicle Herald (Nov 27, 2020)
- Canadian Union of Public Employees letter in support of a TRIPS waiver (Dec 3, 2020)
- NUPGE joins call for waiver of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 medical products (Dec 4, 2020)
- Canada's opposition to a WTO proposal hurts developing countries' pandemic fight, Ronald Labonté and Mira Johri, Globe and Mail (Dec 5, 2020)
- Letter from NDP Trade Critic Daniel Blaikie to International Trade Minister Mary Ng urging the government to support the TRIPS waiver and institute a moratorium on investor-state disputes for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic (Dec 8, 2020)
- WTO receives petition signed by 900,000 people who support the TRIPS waiver and demand that countries, companies and the WTO “ensure access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and equipment for everyone in the world" (Dec 9, 2020)
- C20-L20 Joint Statement on the TRIPS Waiver, a declaration of support from the labour and civil society engagement groups to the G20 (Feb 2021)
- Tripping over TRIPS, a CCPA Monitor article on the waiver by Lucinda Chitapain (Feb 11, 2021)
- Global South urges rich countries to lift monopolies on COVID medicines (Feb 16, 2021)
- Letter from 250 international organizations to WTO DG Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala supporting the waiver and C-TAP (Apr 13, 2021)
- MSF Canada Briefing Note on the waiver and Canada's position (March 2021)
- People's Vaccine policy brief debunking the "third way" proposals from Big Pharma (April 2021)
- It's time for Canada to support the TRIPS waiver, by Jesse Whattam (May 5, 2021)
- Public Services International Welcomes U.S. Decision to Back TRIPS waiver (May 7, 2021)
- Letter from the People's Vaccine Alliance to PM Trudeau urging Schedule 1 listing of COVID vaccines and treatments (May 18, 2021)
- How to make enough vaccine for the world in one year, a Public Citizen report on the power of technology transfer and regional production hubs (May 28, 2021)
- C20–L20–W20 urgently call on G20 nations to support a broad TRIPS waiver (June 4, 2021)
- Global Vaccine Inequity: COVID-19 and Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, a webinar co-organized by CCPA and the Trade Jusitice Network (June 28, 2021)
- International CSO letter to European Commission and EU member states urging retraction of European counterproposal to the TRIPS waiver (June 29, 2021)
- Canada's human rights obligations on global access to COVID-19 vaccines, a letter from Amnesty International to the Canadian government (July 28, 2021) FR
- At the WTO, Canada fiddles while the pandemic rages on, CCPA Monitor article by Stuart Trew (November 17, 2021)
- CCPA endorses international to WTO condeming "Walker Process" for distracting from the more urgent TRIPS waiver (November 19, 2021)
- CCPA joins global call to postpone MC12 due to Covid-19 risks and failure to agree on a TRIPS waiver (November 23, 2021)
- CCPA and 200+ international groups endorse letter to WTO Director-General reiterating need for a bold waiver (February 16, 2022)
- WTO compromise on TRIPS waiver is a disgrace, CCPA Monitor article by Stuart Trew (March 22, 2022)
- Open CSO letter to WTO trade ministers: do not accept the current draft, accept a real waiver (June 15, 2022)
- Governments must break the Big Pharma-WTO stranglehold on access to medines, a joint statement endorsed by the CCPA and nearly 300 international civil society organizations at the close of the MC12 WTO ministerial conference (June 16, 2022)
- The WTO TRIPS Decision on COVID-19 Vaccines: What is Needed to Implement it? A report of the South Centre (November 8, 2022)
- A fact-based case for the extension of the TRIPS COVID-19 decision, People's Vaccine Alliance (November 21, 2022)