Failing to ensure wider access to COVID vaccines could undermine global eco recovery: WTO report

WTO is a Geneva-based 164-member multi-lateral body which frames global trade rules and adjudicates trade disputes among member nations. India has been a member since 1995.
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Failing to ensure wider access to COVID-19 vaccines could undermine the global economic and trade recovery, a report of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has warned.

The Director-General's mid-year report on trade-related developments presented to members on Thursday calls on WTO member countries to ensure that markets remain open and predictable.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said this report clearly suggests that trade policy restraint by member countries has helped limit harm to the world economy.

However, some pandemic-related trade restrictions do remain in place and the challenge is to ensure that they are indeed transparent and temporary, she said.

"The report calls on WTO members to ensure that markets remain open and predictable, and warns that failing to ensure wider access to COVID-19 vaccines could undermine the global economic and trade recovery," WTO said in a statement.

The report noted that since the outbreak of the pandemic, 384 COVID-19-related trade measures in the area of goods have been implemented by members, of which 248 were of a trade-facilitating nature and 136 could be considered trade restrictive.

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WTO is a Geneva-based 164-member multi-lateral body, which frames global trade rules and adjudicates trade disputes among member nations. India has been a member since 1995.

At the World Trade Organization (WTO), India reportedly said that a "few members" ensured that the July-end deadline for talks on the COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights waiver was missed, a move crucial towards fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

India made the remarks at an informal meeting of heads of delegations last week, according to sources.

India said some members did not engage in text-based negotiation and raised the issue of selective interpretation of rules and procedures.

"Despite the agreement among members in early June to start the text-based negotiation, it is unfortunate that a few members have failed to engage in the text-based negotiation," India said at the meeting, as quoted by the publication.

(Disclaimer: Additional background information has been added to this PTI copy for context)

Edited by Megha Reddy