Here is today Foreign police in short: a WTO council discusses an intellectual property exemption for vaccines, Mexico is considering legalizing marijuana, and Libya the interim government faces a vote of confidence.

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WTO confirms IP exemption for COVID vaccines

The World Trade Organization Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is meeting today for a two-day meeting. Amid the bureaucracy, this is another chance for poorer countries to advance the cause of vaccine equity.

Among the topics on the agenda is a joint Indo-South African proposal – first tabled in October – for a temporary intellectual property waiver on equipment, drugs and vaccines related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much has changed since October in the world’s ability to fight the pandemic: multiple vaccines have been shown to be effective and many (mostly wealthy) countries have started rolling out mass immunization programs. The WTO also has a new Director General. Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala began her term in February with a vow to fight vaccine nationalism.

Support for the proposal has grown. The plan counts now 57 countries, mainly in Africa, as co-sponsors; 31 US lawmakers support the proposal, along with 115 members of the European Parliament.

Yet many wealthy countries – including Japan, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom – refused to support the deal, arguing that intellectual property barriers are not such a big barrier to access. to vaccines than manufacturing capacity.

An existential threat. Critics say rich countries only shield powerful pharmaceutical companies from potential loss of revenue, although the governments of those same countries generously contribute research and development. As Fatima Hassan wrote in Foreign police in February, the TRIPS waiver represents “an existential threat to the continued practice of treating drugs as a commodity.”

Divide deeply. Such discord means the proposal may languish. “The WTO has a fundamental structural problem in that it is a consensus organization and there are great differences in views between the developed and developing world. This has been a problem pretty much since the inception of the WTO and if anything is a deeper rift today than it was 25 years ago, ”said Edward Alden, trade expert and principal researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations. Foreign police.

Other. Okonjo-Iweala, who has offers a “third way” to solve the problem “where we can license manufacturing to countries so that you can have adequate supplies while ensuring that intellectual property issues are taken care of.” This has already been done with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been licensed at the Serum Institute in India.

Rather than backing the proposal at the WTO, it appears the Biden administration reflects Okonjo-Iweala’s approach. At Friday’s Quad meeting (more on that below), countries plan to announce financing agreements to boost Indian production of the Novavax and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which were developed in the United States.

“The top priority for the United States is to save lives and end the pandemic, including investing in COVAX and increasing the production and distribution of vaccines. As part of rebuilding our alliances, we are exploring all possibilities of coordination with our global partners and evaluating the effectiveness of this specific proposal against its true potential to save lives, ”said Adam Hodge, spokesperson. word of the United States trade representative. Foreign police by email.

What we are tracking today

Sputnik lands in Europe. Production sites in Italy, Spain, France and Germany signed agreements to produce the Sputnik V vaccine developed by Russia, according to the head of the Russian sovereign wealth fund. The Sputnik vaccine is not yet approved by EU regulators, but individual states are allowed to grant their own approvals, as Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have already done. The French authorities have contradicts Russia claims, claiming that no company has signed an agreement to produce the vaccine.

Mexican marijuana bill. Mexico’s Lower House of Congress lawmakers to discuss a bill today legalize marijuana in the country, potentially creating the world’s largest legal drug market. The bill to legalize and regulate marijuana was already passed by the Senate in November and left House committees on Monday. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador backs legislation he says will help the country better fight drug cartels.

Libya’s vote of confidence. The Libyan parliament is holding a vote of confidence today on a new interim government proposed by Prime Minister designate Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh. Dbeibeh drew up a list of 35 cabinet members which was still being amended from Tuesday to accommodate the various Libyan factions. Dbeibeh said his government will focus on “improving services, unifying state institutions and ending the transition period by holding elections,” which are scheduled for December.

The Quad unites. The leaders of the United States, Japan, India and Australia – a group informally known as the Quad – must appointment friday for the first time. “The fact that President Biden has made this one of his first multilateral engagements is a testament to the importance we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,” the attaché said on Tuesday. White House Press, Jen Psaki. North Korea is expected to be one of the talking points on Friday, according to a White House official, who said the Biden administration was almost done conduct of a “very intense strategic review” of the policy towards the country.

Violence against women. About a third of women in the world have experimented physical or sexual violence, according to the findings of a new report from the World Health Organization. The study covered 161 countries from 2000 to 2018 and therefore does not include domestic violence linked to the pandemic, which is believed to have increased in a number of countries. The report found that violence against women is more prevalent in intimate partner relationships and that one in four women in a relationship has experienced physical or sexual violence by the age of 19.

Global tax havens. The United Arab Emirates have joined the ranks of the 10 largest tax havens in the world, according to a report recently released by the Tax Justice Network, an advocacy group. British Territories top this year’s list, with the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Bermuda taking the top three spots. The Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg round out the European representation in the top ten, while Asian financial centers Hong Kong and Singapore were also included. The report criticized the way the OECD manages global corporate tax policy and called for responsibility to be transferred to the United Nations.

Russia and China withdraw cooperation from this world, after the two countries signed an agreement to build a lunar station together. A memorandum of understanding signed Tuesday by the Chinese and Russian space agencies plans to build “a complex of experimental research facilities created on the surface and / or in the orbit of the moon”. The project joins NASA’s Gateway program, a collaboration with space agencies in Europe, Japan and Canada, to build a lunar space station in orbit by the end of the 2020s.

That’s all for today.

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Photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

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