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Britain condemned for ‘deliberate wrecking tactics’ on behalf of big pharma

GLOBAL health campaigners condemned Britain for its “deliberate wrecking tactics” on behalf of big pharma corporations today after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) failed to suspend Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property rights.

The group of 164 countries, including Britain, spent five days negotiating deals which included pledges on health and food security.

The partial intellectual property waiver deal for coronavirus jabs will allow developing countries to produce and export vaccines, but it will only last five years and excludes disease treatments and tests.

It follows an original proposal made by India and South Africa, backed by more than 100 governments, to suspend intellectual property on all Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments.

WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the agreements, reached at a conference in Geneva, would “make a difference to the lives of people around the world.”

But campaigners have said that the agreement barely expands on an existing exemption in WTO rules and is too narrow.

People’s Vaccine Alliance co-chairman Max Lawson called the deal “technocratic fudge aimed at saving reputations, not lives.”

Global Justice Now pharma campaign manager Tim Bierley said: “This is a sham deal from the WTO.

“The original idea of an intellectual property waiver hasn’t just been watered down, it’s been washed away.

“What’s left does precious little to increase access to Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments — the whole point of the exercise — and could actually reduce the scope of existing rights to issue emergency licences.”

He called Britain’s role “painstakingly negative,” adding: “Its deliberate wrecking tactics have played a significant part in preventing an outcome that would genuinely increase global access to Covid medicines.

“Line by line, Boris Johnson’s government has intervened to ensure that big pharmaceutical firms continue laughing all the way to the bank.

“Countries in the global South have been systematically bullied, excluded and attacked for demanding access to life-saving medicines in these negotiations.

“They now have little choice but to consider alternative ways to get round pharmaceutical monopoly rules, including outright defiance if required.”

Mr Bierley also criticised the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement for failing to help produce much needed medication across the world in the 27 years since it was signed.

“The catastrophic failure of this summit surely leaves the WTO itself on its last legs,” he added.

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