MPs From Across Political Spectrum Urge Feds to Support WTO’s COVID 19 Vaccine Waiver

May 7, 2021 Updated: May 7, 2021

WASHINGTON—A broad coalition of MPs from all five parties wants the federal government to support waiving the global rules that guard vaccine trade secrets.

The group of 65 MPs has written a letter urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to support the proposed World Trade Organization waiver.

The government has agreed to take part in talks, but says in a statement it “firmly believes” that protecting intellectual property is important.

It also notes it supports other methods of expanding access to vaccines, providing $940 million to date to expand access in low- and middle-income countries.

Supporters of the waiver say it would make it easier for developing countries to import the equipment, expertise and materials needed to make their own vaccines.

The idea is opposed by the pharmaceutical industry and a number of key world leaders who say it would be counterproductive.

“Our government firmly believes in the importance of protecting (intellectual property), and recognizes the integral role that industry has played in innovating to develop and deliver life-saving COVID-19 vaccines,” International Trade Minister Mary Ng said in a statement.

“Since the introduction of the IP waiver proposal, Canada has actively worked with partners to identify barriers to vaccine access—many of which are unrelated to IP, such as supply chain constraints.”

Diana Sarosi, policy and campaigns director for Oxfam Canada, called agreeing to talks a step in the right direction, but assailed the government for its “wait-and-see approach” on intellectual property.

“Canada continues to prioritize profits over public health,” Sarosi said in a statement.

Signatories to the letter to Trudeau include a number of prominent government MPs, as well as Conservatives like Michelle Rempel Garner and Phil McColeman.

“There is no question that normative intellectual property rights represent a significant potential barrier” to vaccine access in some parts of the world, they write.

“Last July, alongside other world leaders, you wrote that ’where you live should not determine whether you live,’ but that is exactly what is happening.”

The United States surprised many this week when it expressed support for the waiver and promised to sit down at the WTO to take part in text−based negotiations—a significant step toward a consensus.

But consensus is notoriously difficult to come by at the world trade body, and several prominent members, including Germany and the U.K., stand firmly opposed to the idea of a waiver.