Leicester Mercury

Vaccine inequity is unacceptab­le - WTO


THE head of the World Trade Organisati­on (WTO) has called for expanded capability in developing countries to manufactur­e vaccines.

WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the gaping imbalance in access to coronaviru­s vaccines that mostly favours rich, developed countries was unacceptab­le.

She said she supports the creation of a framework that would give developing countries “some automatici­ty and access to manufactur­e vaccines with technology transfer” during future pandemics, decrying the “vaccine inequity” of the current one.

“The idea that 70% of vaccines today have been administer­ed only by 10 countries is really not acceptable,” Ms Okonjo-Iweala told reporters while hosting French economy minister Bruno Le Maire at the WTO’s Geneva headquarte­rs.

Scores of the trade body’s member nations have backed efforts led by South Africa and India to get the WTO to grant a temporary waiver of its intellectu­al property pact to help boost Covid-19 vaccine production at a time of insufficie­nt supplies.

Some wealthier countries and those with strong pharmaceut­ical industries oppose the idea, saying it would crimp future innovation.

France’s Mr Le Maire addressed thorny efforts to reform the WTO amid tensions over trade, including the US-China trade war during the Trump administra­tion and a longrunnin­g dispute between the United States and the European Union over subsidies for aircraft manufactur­ers Airbus and Boeing.

“We do not want to see a return of the commercial tensions between the United States and China, or between the United States and the European Union,” Mr Le Maire said.

“We are convinced that the WTO has a major role to play.” He said France supported “concrete reform” to help improve dispute resolution and ease trade tensions.

Mr Le Maire advocated “clear and respected trade rules”, notably on intellectu­al property, state aid and reciprocit­y agreements between countries.

The United States over successive administra­tions has held up appointmen­ts to the WTO’s appeals court, which helps adjudicate trade disputes across the world.

The US attributed the action in part to concerns about unfair practices by China, including alleged intellectu­al property theft and aid to state-run or state influenced enterprise­s.

Meanwhile, France’s prime minister has defended new nationwide measures to combat a resurgent coronaviru­s that include closing schools for at least three weeks and putting in place a month-long domestic travel ban.

PM Jean Castex said the government has acted “consistent­ly and pragmatica­lly”.

 ??  ?? Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Bruno Le Maire greet each other at yesterday’s joint news conference
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Bruno Le Maire greet each other at yesterday’s joint news conference

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