200+ organisations write to WTO head condemning NZ’s approach to Covid vaccine patents


200+ organisations write to WTO head condemning NZ’s approach to Covid vaccine patents

Media release from First Union
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Image: Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

New Zealand organisations, including It’s Our Future, are among the more than 200 signatories of a letter to new World Trade Organisation Director General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, expressing concern over the proposal to use industry-led agreements as the primary approach to address global Covid vaccine production constraints and supply shortages, rather than addressing the barriers posed by the WTO’s intellectual property rules (TRIPS).

New Zealand is among a small group of countries championing this so-called ‘third way’ approach as an alternative to a waiver for the TRIPS rules on patents for Covid-related products is proposed by India and South Africa and supported by more than 100 countries.

Yesterday, the WTO held a special half-day event with selected trade ministers and industry representatives to try and encourage action on the "third way" approach that New Zealand is supporting.

On the same day, a letter signed by 175 former world leaders and Nobel laureates - including former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark - urged US President Biden to support the WTO waiver as "a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic."

"By supporting the third way proposal, New Zealand is indirectly running interference for the rich nations and companies that have refused to address issues around vaccine equity," said Edward Miller, spokesperson for It’s Our Future.

"It’s time for New Zealand to end this charade and support the demand made by a majority of WTO members for a rules-based waiver to the intellectual property rules that have constrained vaccine manufacturing capacity."