The COVID-19 TRIPS Waiver and the WTO Ministerial Decision

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS IN TIMES OF CRISIS, Jens Schovsbo, ed., Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 1-25, 2024

Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 22-48

20 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2022 Last revised: 3 Dec 2023

See all articles by Peter K. Yu

Peter K. Yu

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: June 30, 2022

Abstract

Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March 2020, countries have experienced wide devastation and disruption. To provide an expedited response and to maximize the policy space in the health arena, India and South Africa submitted an unprecedented proposal to the World Trade Organization in October 2020. This proposal called for the partial suspension of the TRIPS Agreement to facilitate the "prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19."

Although the waiver proposal quickly garnered considerable support from other WTO members, civil society organizations and individual experts, it faced strong opposition from some developed countries. By December 2021, it was quite clear that the waiver proposal would not have received enough support to achieve consensus within the WTO membership. Around that time, the European Union, India, South Africa and the United States—with the support of the WTO Secretariat—launched high-level quadrilateral consultations to find a compromise. The resulting "Quad proposal" eventually provided the basis for negotiating the Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement at the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva in June 2022. This decision allowed WTO members to manufacture without the authorization of patent holders COVID-19 vaccines—and, if subsequently approved, also other COVID-19 health products.

This chapter traces the TRIPS waiver debate from the submission of the original proposal by India and South Africa in October 2020 to the final adoption of the Ministerial Decision in June 2022. The chapter further evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of this newly adopted decision, comparing it with the earlier waiver proposal. It concludes by offering suggestions for future actions that WTO members on both sides of the waiver debate could take to help combat COVID-19 and future pandemics.

Suggested Citation

Yu, Peter K., The COVID-19 TRIPS Waiver and the WTO Ministerial Decision (June 30, 2022). INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS IN TIMES OF CRISIS, Jens Schovsbo, ed., Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 1-25, 2024, Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 22-48, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4150090 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4150090

Peter K. Yu (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX Tarrant County 76102
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.peteryu.com/

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