China, the TRIPS Waiver and the Global Pandemic Response
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, COVID-19, AND THE NEXT PANDEMIC: DIAGNOSING PROBLEMS, DEVELOPING CURES, Madhavi Sunder and Sun Haochen, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2023, Forthcoming
18 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2021 Last revised: 26 Jun 2023
Date Written: December 1, 2021
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has played important roles in the global pandemic response, which ranged from vaccine donation and distribution, to transfer of health and medical technology, to support for international intellectual property reforms. To provide a deeper understanding of these myriad roles, this chapter closely examines China's position in the debate on the COVID-19 TRIPS waiver at the WTO. It begins by discussing how the country's changing pharmaceutical landscape and growing ambition to become an intellectual property power have paved the way for its middle-of-the-road position. The chapter then identifies two additional factors contributing to this position: complex international politics and choices for pandemic diplomacy.
This chapter further explores China's more assertive position toward the end of the waiver debate—specifically during the deliberations on the proposal that provided the basis of the Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement adopted at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva in June 2022. Drawing eight lessons from the international debates on both the waiver and the Ministerial Decision, this chapter concludes by offering insights into the roles China can or will play in future international policy debates at the intersection of intellectual property and public health, including those involving the next pandemic.
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