EU, U.S. to agree reduction of vaccine export barriers, summit draft says

The European Union and the United States are set to agree at a summit on Tuesday to reduce export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines and drugs, a draft joint text says, arguing that voluntary sharing of technology is the key to boosting output.

The document, seen by Reuters and still subject to changes, makes no mention of mandatory waivers on vaccine patents, which U.S. President Joe Biden has endorsed as a temporary solution to the global shortage of COVID-19 shots.

The EU has repeatedly opposed the idea, which is backed by dozens of poorer nations.

Brussels submitted a less radical counter-proposal to the World Trade Organization last week that highlights existing WTO rules allowing countries to grant licenses to manufacturers without the consent of the patent-holder.

At an EU-U.S. summit in Brussels on Tuesday, the two parties are set to agree to establish a joint task force to boost vaccine and drugs production capacity that will aim at “maintaining open and secure supply chains, avoiding any unnecessary export restrictions”.

The EU has urged Washington not to hamper the export of vaccines and materials needed for their production. Biden is using the decades-old U.S. Defense Production Act (DPA) to put the U.S. government first in line to buy American-made vaccines and treatments and control the supplies they require.

The draft also says the task force will try to expand global production of vaccines and drugs by “encouraging voluntary sharing of knowhow and technology on mutually-determined terms” - a far remove from forcing pharmaceutical companies to give away their patents to competitors.

(c) Reuters


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