China acts as a responsible world power by pushing WTO to reach a decision on IPR waiver for COVID-19 vaccines
Published: Jun 21, 2022 01:01 AM
A health worker prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Bangkok, Thailand, on April 4, 2022. (Xinhua/Rachen Sageamsak)
A health worker prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Bangkok, Thailand, on April 4, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

China has contributed a number of important achievements during the World Trade Organization's (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference, especially the decision on intellectual property rights (IPR) waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, acting as a responsible world power, Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday.

An official from China's Ministry of Commerce told Xinhua that up to now, China has provided more than 2.2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 120 countries and international organizations, becoming an important contributor to international cooperation in the fight against the virus.

In May 2021, China announced its support for the IPR waiver for the COVID-19 vaccines and called for an early decision on this issue by international bodies, including the WTO.

According to the official, China has been actively participating in consultations on the IPR waiver for COVID-19 vaccines under the framework of the WTO, strengthening communication and interaction with members such as the US, the EU, India and South Africa, in a bid to engage the parties to bridge differences and reach an agreement as soon as possible.

At the critical stage of the negotiations of this Ministerial Conference, China, as a major producer and supplier of COVID-19 vaccines, took the initiative to announce that it would not seek to exercise the flexibility provided by the exemption, laying the foundation to reach the decision at the conference.

China's constructive role in the negotiations was highly appreciated by the WTO Director-General and other members, which is also a practical move by China to defend the multilateral trading system and establish a community with a shared future for mankind.

The official noted that the pandemic has brought many uncertainties to global economic and trade development, in addition to serious challenges to the multilateral trading system. The ministerial decision reached on the IPR exemption for COVID-19 vaccines reflects the key role played by the WTO in actively addressing global challenges, conveys the spirit of solidarity and cooperation among WTO members, and strongly boosts the confidence of all parties in the multilateral trading system.

The official said that, taking into account the special circumstances of the pandemic, developing members can waive some of the obligations of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding patent protection by authorizing the production of the vaccines without the permission of the patentee and exporting it to other eligible developing member countries.

Developing countries in the organization enjoy greater flexibility in the way the authorization is implemented, the notification obligation and the provision of appropriate remuneration to the patentee.

In addition, the conference decided to provide legal safeguards and procedural facilitation for the local production of COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries, reflecting the goals of promoting technology transfer and dissemination to protect public health and social welfare through the protection and enforcement of IPRs.

This important outcome will play an vital role in bridging the global "vaccine divide", enhancing the accessibility and affordability of the vaccines to developing member countries, as well as promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.