The new head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) called on his member states on Monday to work with pharmaceutical companies to license more production of COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries to triple global production.
“People are dying in poor countries,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on her first day in office. “The world has a normal production capacity of 3.5 billion doses of vaccines and we are now striving to produce 10 billion doses.”
Her call comes as a group of developing countries led by South Africa and India try to give up intellectual property rights for drugs and vaccines against COVID-19, a move opposed by the United States, the European Union and other rich countries.
Okonjo-Iweala, the first woman and first African CEO of the WTO, said that as this debate continues, companies must be encouraged to open and license more sustainable manufacturing facilities now in developing countries.
In a speech to 164 WTO member states, she said there was an upcoming world convention on production and called for a dialogue with producer associations.
After a long campaign vetoed by the Trump administration in later stages, the 66-year-old Nigerian was confirmed as chief last month, pledging to “forget about business as usual” in the WTO, which is struggling to reach new agreements. arbitration functions are paralyzed.
“READY TO GO”
“I feel great. I’m coming to one of the most important institutions in the world and we have a lot of work to do. I feel ready to go,” Okonjo-Iweala told reporters upon arrival at WTO headquarters on the lake in Geneva, where she pulled on a mask and ran into elbows.
The former Nigerian finance and foreign minister aims to revive global trade supervisors ahead of a big meeting at the end of the year, saying he fears the world is leaving the WTO behind.
WTO delegates agreed to hold the next major ministerial conference in Geneva on November 29.
The meeting was originally scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan in 2020, but was postponed due to a pandemic. Okonjo-Iweala said she hopes ministers at a meeting at the end of the year will be able to finalize agreements on the abolition of fisheries subsidies and reforms for the WTO’s highest appeal body, which has been paralyzed by the Trump administration.
Because the WTO director general has little executive power, some analysts question her ability to revive a body faced with so many challenges, including enduring U.S.-China trade tensions and growing protectionism amplified by a pandemic.