Global Counsel Germany launches in Berlin. Learn more

Wednesday 6 December 2023 |
Event type
In Person

Breaking the TRIPS impasse at the WTO

Ahead of the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference in February 2024, we hosted a breakfast event to launch our report on ideas for a robust and forward-looking trade and health agenda at the multilateral level and including prospects for MC13.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the discussion:

  • When reflecting on the rules-based trading system’s response to the covid-19 pandemic, WTO Members identified several areas in the WTO framework that could be modified to support future multilateral trade responses to health crises. Key proposals included streamlining customs procedures, efficiently identifying essential goods, lifting unnecessary tariffs on medical goods and inputs, and exercising restraint when implementing emergency export controls.
  • The public debate on global health security and trade has become narrowly focused on entrenched intellectual property issues. These are highly polarized and have largely resulted in deadlocked decision-making at the WTO.
  • There is a clear policy space for alternative solutions. In this context, our GC insight proposes exploring the potential to combine measures to create a plurilateral Trade in Healthcare Agreement (THA) at the WTO. The THA would comprise five pillars that aim to tackle challenges experienced during the covid-19 pandemic on export controls, regulatory cooperation and capacity building, tariff liberalisations, trade facilitation and open public procurement.
  • With the WTO experiencing structural challenges and internal divisions, the passage of a THA would be challenging, although progress could happen at an incremental basis. It is in this spirit that like-minded Members should use the convening power of MC13 to explore the art of the possible on how a trade and health policy package could be progressed.
  • Progress in global health security relies on it being prioritized on both the national and multilateral policy agendas and on policymakers actively investing in strengthening health systems. Our GC insight establishes a clear opportunity for the WTO to demonstrate its relevance to fulfilling global health security objectives through its function of providing a predictable trading framework and enabling an environment for mutually beneficial and reciprocal trade relationships.

You can also read our report 'The policy case for a Trade in Healthcare Agreement' which seeks to draw lessons from the pandemic experience and suggests concrete steps in which World Trade Organization (WTO) Members might use the global trading system to better equip the world to respond to the next health crisis.


Guest speaker
Luke Jessop

Deputy Director - Procurement and Intellectual Property at Department for Business and Trade (DBT)

Guest speaker
Corry Jacobs

Senior Director and Head of IP, Global Trade and Multilateral, GSK


Guest speaker
Ben Lucas

Managing Director, MSD UK & Ireland


The views expressed in this event can be attributed to the named author(s) only.