South Africa: Tripped Up - All You Need to Know About the Covid-19 Trips Waiver and What It May Achieve for SA (And What It Won't)

First Johnson and Johnson vaccines arrive in South Africa (file photo).

A waiver would not be a global answer to the pandemic but would be a step in the right direction. It would remove the legal barriers that prevent cross-border cooperation in generic manufacturing of Covid-19 medical products as well as cross-border manufacturing capacity building - both long-term considerations. In the short and medium term a waiver would facilitate generic export to members in need (with limited and no manufacturing capacity, eg African countries) and simplify and potentially speed up generic production (for those with manufacturing capacity such as India).

Franziska Sucker is associate professor at the School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand

On 5 May 2021, following enormous pressure, ambassador Katherine Tai announced the US government's support for waiving intellectual property (IP) protection for Covid-19 vaccines. The following morning, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, declared the EU ready to discuss the "US proposal" even while some European governments, especially Germany, vehemently opposed the idea.

This happened in response to the October 2020 joint waiver request made by South Africa and India. They proposed a waiver allowing World Trade Organization (WTO) members to suspend their obligations to apply several (not all) provisions of the WTO Agreement on...

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