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EU trade ministers discuss vaccines with WTO chief




The French Presidency hosted an informal council of EU trade ministers in Marseille today (14 February). Ministers met with WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to discuss trade issues, including vaccines. 

The meeting was a chance to exchange views on the EU’s strategy for multilateral trade issues ahead of the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference, in particular the response of global trade to public health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Speaking as a politician but also as a doctor, I am really disappointed that we haven’t come to an international agreement yet on vaccines,” Irish Minister for Trade, Leo Varadkar, said. “There are so many countries in the world like mine that are heavily vaccinated and life is almost back to normal. But [there are] so many countries, particularly in the developing world where people can’t get vaccines yet. I don’t think that we should wait until the next variant before we have an agreement.” 

Varadkar said that the EU was looking at a holistic approach, which looked not just at the objective of donating vaccines, but ensuring there was support in deploying the vaccines. He said that it was important to make compromises, but he said that it should not be used to undermine intellectual property and innovation. 

The meeting also addressed a slew of upcoming international conferences which include the EU-Africa Union Summit later this week, the spring US-EU Trade and Technology Council and the sanctions package against Russia. 

“It’s clear that as the EU and as a broader, Western democratic society, we send a strong and united message to Russia that any aggression will be met with very firm and sizable action,” Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said.

To prepare for the second annual US-EU Trade and Technology Council in France in the spring, the Trade MInisters discussed digital and climate issues, new technologies and also supply chain issues experienced on both sides of the Atlantic.


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