WTO head welcomes U.S. vaccine move, urges rapid start of negotiations

WTO head welcomes U.S. vaccine move, urges rapid start of negotiations

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala poses before an interview with Reuters at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, April 12, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the World Trade Organization welcomed on Thursday the U.S. move to support waiving patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines and urged WTO members to start negotiations as soon as possible.

Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told member states that she “warmly welcomed” U.S. willingness to engage with the proponents of the temporary waiver to the WTO’s TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement.

“We need to respond urgently to COVID-19 because the world is watching and people are dying,” she said in a statement read by a WTO spokesman after the closed-door meeting.

“I am pleased that the proponents are preparing a revision to their proposal and I urge them to put this on the table as soon as possible so that text-based negotiations can commence.”

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