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EU submits proposal to WTO to expand global Covid vaccine supply, as countries demand IP rights waiver

The EU has informed the World Trade Organization of its alternative plan to the requested intellectual property (IP) rights waiver, which the bloc says will help bolster supplies of Covid vaccines.

The proposal presented by the European Commission on Friday is designed to be an alternative option to the IP waiver requested by developing nations, with a view to using flexible WTO rules to improve equitable access to vaccines.

The EU’s approach seeks to reduce export restrictions to the minimum level required, encourage vaccine manufacturers to independently agree to deals with developing nations, and use existing WTO rules to allow licences to be granted without the consent of patent holders.

Over 120 countries have so far called for the IP rights of Covid vaccine makers to be waived to allow poorer and developing nations to produce doses themselves.

The US recently backed such a move; however, the EU, UK and others have raised concerns about the IP rights waiver, requesting more time to analyze the proposal and blocking any move by the WTO which would require the support of all 164 member states to proceed.

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Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has criticized the EU’s proposal and refusal to back an IP rights waiver, accusing the bloc of only pushing for a voluntary response from companies, instead of a legal move that would compel them to take certain action.

WTO officials have not immediately responded to the EU plan, but the issue is expected to be discussed when the international body meets next week.

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