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Ramaphosa welcomes US support of TRIPS waiver

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Ramaphosa welcomes US support of TRIPS waiver

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa

6th May 2021

By: Sane Dhlamini
Creamer Media Researcher and Writer

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President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday welcomed news that the US will support a waiver on certain intellectual property-rights provisions covering coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccines.

South Africa and India submitted a proposal for a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver in October last year.

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During his tenure as African Union (AU) chairperson, Ramaphosa pushed for fair access to vaccines to fight the virus.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai released a statement on Wednesday, announcing the Biden-Harris Administration’s support for waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines.

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The temporary waiver will provide countries with the policy space necessary to collaborate in manufacturing, scaling up and supplying Covid-19 medical products which are currently in short supply.

The US will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Recourse to waivers is provided for in the WTO’s legal framework under exceptional circumstances such as the current global pandemic and forms part of the WTO legal toolbox.

The TRIPS waiver will boost supplies of vaccines in the shortest possible time and can stimulate unused manufacturing capacity across the world and speed up expansion of new production facilities.

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel met with Tai in March to discuss the rationale for the waiver request.

Patel emphasised that South Africa sought strong partnerships with pharmaceutical companies on know-how and technology as well as further research and development on the African continent.

Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize has coordinated efforts to gain access to vaccines and Minister of Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande is working with local scientists and pharmaceutical firms to identify opportunities to use local know-how in the fight against the virus.

The waiver proposal is co-sponsored by 60 members of the WTO and supported by over 100 members of the WTO, 175 former heads of state and nobel laureates, with growing support from members of parliament, medical personnel and citizens across the world.

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