The FINANCIAL - AHF Backs Proposal to Ease Tariffs on COVID-19 Drugs

AHF Backs Proposal to Ease Tariffs on COVID-19 Drugs

AHF Backs Proposal to Ease Tariffs on COVID-19 Drugs

The FINANCIL -- A block of 13 World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries and the EU, known as the Ottawa Group, issued a proposal on Monday urging other WTO members to refrain from imposing tariffs and export restrictions on essential medical goods during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the world’s largest global AIDS organization, supports a proposal sent to the World Trade Organization by the Ottawa Group (the EU and 13 other countries) to remove impediments to trade in essential medical goods.
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“We applaud the Ottawa Group for taking the first step in tackling trade barriers to the flow of essential medicines during the ongoing public health emergency,” said Terri Ford, AHF Chief of Global Policy and Advocacy. “Vaccine nationalism, just like uncoordinated national responses in a pandemic undermine progress toward getting COVID-19 under control – now more than ever we see that international cooperation is indispensable to addressing a global health crisis, there’s no other way around it, we must work together!”

The rationale behind the Ottawa Group proposal stems from the need to improve transparency and strengthen resilience of critical supply chains during a public health emergency. Concerns are growing around the world that wealthy countries will absorb most of the COVID-19 vaccine supply and other essential medicines, while developing countries will be left to deal with drug shortages.

Constrained logistics of moving critical medical supplies have been a common theme across recent epidemics such as Ebola in 2013 to 2016, and now COVID-19. From the outset both outbreaks saw shortages of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, with particularly dire consequences for the frontline healthcare workers. A supply of ventilators needed to keep severely ill COVID-19 patients has also been impacted by strained logistics systems and trade restrictions.

In the struggle against HIV/AIDS, trade restrictions and tariffs have been a long-running drag on the rollout of affordable, lifesaving antiretroviral medicines. In the early days of treatment, patents on antiretroviral therapies were used to prevent the entry of generic drug manufacturers into developing countries, thus limiting competition and keeping prices high to the detriment of people living with HIV. AHF has been ardently advocating with the WTO and other international bodies for over 30 years, arguing that trade should not come at the expense of people’s health.

The Ottawa Group has expressed hope that the proposal will lay the groundwork for permanent changes in WTO policies after the pandemic subsides. The proposal will be submitted to the WTO secretariat this week before it goes for discussion to the WTO General Council in preparation for the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in 2021.