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Strengthening the WTO’s global trade and health agenda

Douglas Petersen
Douglas Petersen October 18, 2021

Strengthening the WTO’s global trade and health agenda.

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) should use the weeks ahead to focus on delivering an ambitious and productive trade and health agenda as it prepares for the Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12) on Nov. 30 – Dec. 3. MC12 presents an important opportunity for WTO members to advance meaningful trade and health policies that build on the WTO’s core principles of openness, fairness and predictability by strengthening global trade and cooperation to help combat COVID-19 and prepare for future challenges.

The biopharmaceutical industry has long supported a strong international trading system rooted in the WTO’s core principles. Biopharmaceutical companies depend on an open and rules-based global trading system to ensure that innovative pharmaceuticals (including vaccines, therapies and certain diagnostics) can be developed, manufactured and distributed to health systems and patients around the world.

To build on existing WTO initiatives, PhRMA, in collaboration with major industry association partners in Europe and the UK, published a paper concerning industry priorities related to the WTO’s trade and health agenda. The paper recommends that WTO members capitalize on MC12 to:

  • Take timely and critical actions to immediately liberalize trade in health products and the inputs and equipment required to develop and manufacture those products, including: (1) eliminating export restrictions, (2) eliminating tariffs, (3) improving trade facilitation and (4) strengthening regulator cooperation and capacity building. 

  • Confirm the central role of the WTO in strengthening and future-proofing the open and rules-based international trading system for the life sciences sector.

  • Commit to advancing a robust trade and health agenda that will address health-related trade issues both immediately and more regularly in the future.

Strengthening global trade policy through these initiatives would support additional innovation and collaboration to combat COVID-19 and other international health challenges. The biopharmaceutical industry stands ready to support WTO members in advancing immediate and future working agendas to bolster the global trading system. Industry’s around-the-clock efforts to address the coronavirus demonstrate that collaboration delivers meaningful impact and improves the health of patients worldwide.

For a more detailed perspective on the needs and recommended actions to support the international trading environment, please read our multi-association industry paper.

Topics: Trade