WTO draft IP deal on COVID vaccines 'very good', UK minister says

·1-min read
Weekly cabinet meeting in Downing Street

By Emma Farge and Philip Blenkinsop

GENEVA (Reuters) -Britain, one of the main opponents to waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, praised a draft agreement and expressed hope a deal would be reached at the World Trade Organization (WTO) this week.

India, South Africa and other developing countries have sought a waiver of IP rights for vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for over a year, but faced opposition from countries with major pharmaceutical producers, such as the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

A provisional deal between major parties - India, South Africa, the United States and the European Union - emerged in May, but trade sources say Britain and Switzerland have continued to express concerns that it goes too far.

"We've got to a text which I think is very good. I think some of the concerns early on have been alleviated," Anne-Marie Trevelyan told Reuters on the sidelines of a four-day WTO ministerial meeting in Geneva, without being more specific.

"We are in the final throes of one word here, one word there. I am hopeful that we will land something that is good," she added.

A source closely following the talks said the British position was now "more conciliatory" but other challenges remained, including which products the waiver would apply to and which countries might be able to benefit from a waiver and produce vaccines locally.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis told journalists on Tuesday there was a "good chance" of reaching an agreement on the IP waiver during the WTO ministerial meeting, which is set to run until Wednesday.

(Reporting by Emma FargeEditing by Frank Jack Daniel and Mark Potter)

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