Cash rich nations reiterated their opposition to a proposal that demanded the waive intellectual property rules for COVID-19 drugs, despite pressure to make an exception to improve access to drugs for poorer countries.
Supporters of the waiver say existing intellectual property rules create barriers on access to affordable medicines and vaccines and they want restrictions to be eased, as they were during the AIDS epidemic.
However, the European Union, the United States and some other wealthy nations at a meeting on Friday means the proposal set to go before the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) General Council next month is likely to fail.
“If rich countries prefer profits to life, they will kill it by tying it down in technicalities,” said a delegate supporting the motion who attended the closed-door meeting.
The 164-member WTO body usually has to agree by consensus unless members agree to proceed to a vote, which is exceptional.
The proposal was first raised by India and South Africa in October. Since then, China, which has five COVID-19 vaccine candidates in late-stage trials, has voiced its support, as have dozens of other WTO members, mostly from developing countries.
The World Health Organization says it supports tackling barriers to access to COVID-19 medicines, as does Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, selected by a panel to be the WTO’s next director-general.
Lobbying outside the global trade body has also intensified.
This week, more than 100 civil society organisations wrote to EU lawmakers urging them to back the waiver.