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The Role of WTO in Suppressing COVID

03/17/2021

The newly appointed Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has aspirations to use the Organization to help in the international response to COVID.  This relates to her serving as the Chair of GAVI, an agency financing vaccines for nations in need. 

 

At issue are WTO restrictions on medical supplies and PPE.  A number of members of the WTO have proposed limits on barriers to trade in pandemic related products.  Intellectual, property rules are regarded as an obstruction to effective control. South Africa has encountered problems in sourcing materials for test kits.  It is understood that under extraordinary circumstances, the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights allows concessions for critically required health-related products.

 

In addition to the immediate problems of COVID, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is investigating a long-term program to allow WTO to be more flexible in response to future pandemics.



Dr. Okonjo-Iwela