Swiss minister stands firm on Covid vaccine rights in WTO talks

Swiss Economics Minister Parmelin expressed scepticism about a consensus at WTO talks on IP rights on vaccines. © Keystone/Martial Trezzini

Economics Minister Guy Parmelin says Switzerland remains open to a compromise on intellectual property (IP) rights on Covid vaccines.

This content was published on June 15, 2022 - 16:35

He said the Swiss government would not agree to a full waiver of the rights but it was willing to continue discussions.

Parmelin was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO)External link in the Swiss city of Geneva on Wednesday as the conference was extended by one day to reach a consensus on changes to global trade rules.

“It’s not part of Switzerland’s policy to leave a discussion,” Parmelin was quoted as saying by the Keystone-SDA news agency.

He added that it was in nobody’s interest to block negotiations and some of the 164 WTO member states were holding their cards close to their chests.

Nevertheless, Parmelin said a deal was still possible, but he dismissed a proposal by non-governmental organisations for a temporary waiver of IP rights.

Any departure from basic principles in the IP rights was inacceptable for Switzerland’s pharmaceutical industry, he explained.

India, South Africa and other developing countries have sought exceptions for vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for more than a year, but they came up against opposition from Switzerland and Britain. Both countries have major pharmaceutical producers.

The WTO ministerial meeting, originally due to end on Wednesday, is the first major conference in four years.

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