Tuesday, 15 February 2022 04:25

EU, Africa at odds over vaccine patents ahead of summit

The EU on Monday (14 February) stood by its refusal to lift patent protections on Covid vaccines, just days ahead of a summit with African Union countries who see the issue as a priority.

Since October 2020, India and South Africa have led calls at the World Trade Organization for the temporary removal of intellectual property protections for vaccines, treatments and diagnostics in the fight against Covid-19.

Proponents argue this would boost production globally and help address the glaring inequity in access between rich and poor nations.

The members of the African Union have pushed to include the demand in the conclusions of the joint EU-AU summit that starts on Thursday in Brussels.

“The African Union… urges the European Union to engage constructively towards the conclusion of a targeted and time limited waiver,” said the AU proposal seen by AFP.

But a number of wealthy countries hosting large pharmaceutical companies have opposed the move, saying patents are not the main roadblocks to scaling up production and are crucial to innovation.

“We think that intellectual property should never be a brake (to vaccine production),” said Franck Riester, the trade minister from France, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

“At the same time, we do not want to call into question a system of intellectual property that allows for innovation and that has made it possible, in particular, to have vaccines very quickly in the case of Covid-19,” he added.

Riester was speaking after holding talks with his EU counterparts on the matter in the French city of Marseille in which WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also took part.

Début du Conseil Commerce de la #PFUE2022 aujourd’hui, au Palais du Pharo, avec mes homologues européens. Au cœur de nos 1ers échanges : la relation centrale entre l’UE et l’Afrique. Nous partageons la volonté de renforcer nos liens commerciaux avec le continent africain.