Tuesday’s Weekly Primer: Curated Global Health News


  • WTO’s new boss Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala began her first day at work speaking at the General Council meeting that began this week.
  • The WTO’s highest-level decision-making body is meeting March 1st-3rd. The Council is currently chaired by Ambassador David Walker (New Zealand). At WTO, the Council has the authority to act on behalf of the ministerial conference which only meets about every two years.
Image credit: ©WTO/Bryan Lehmann
  • There are a number of agenda items for this meeting, one of the most watched has been the update from the TRIPS Council on the discussions on the TRIPS Waiver proposal.
  • As many as 31 delegations took to the floor and a majority of the countries spoke in favor of the proposal, a WTO official said. Discussions on the waiver proposal will continue at the TRIPS Council in the coming weeks and it will return as an agenda item at the General Council, the official said.
  • Although the proponents have got support from an increasing number of WTO members, the official said that since WTO is a consensus-based organization no decision can be taken unless everyone agrees to it. It is understood that some countries cautioned against the use of the TRIPS waiver as an approach to address the pandemic, and wanted to examine further the role of intellectual property being a barrier to access to medical products during this pandemic.
  • Interestingly, the US and the EU, opponents to the proposal did not intervene at the meeting on March 1, on this matter. Nearly six countries are understood to have spoken against the waiver proposal at the meeting.
  • A number of countries did not articulate a clear position on the proposal at the meeting, a source said. The next General Council meeting is in May 2021.



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Geneva Health Files

Geneva Health Files

A newsletter from the capital of global health, reporting on politics, policies and power.