Ottawa Group on WTO reform 

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OTTAWA, Canada – Mary Ng, minister of small business, export promotion and international trade, chaired a meeting of ministers of the Canada-led Ottawa Group on World Trade Organization (WTO) reform to advance trade and health issues related to equitable access to vaccines, including issues such as export restrictions on essential medical goods, manufacturing capacity for vaccines, intellectual property rights, and the transfer of technology. The session included the participation of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the WTO.

“International collaboration on trade and health issues is critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring a strong, resilient, and inclusive economic recovery,” Global Affairs Canada reported. “Minister Ng led discussions on strengthening global supply chains and facilitating trade in essential medicines and medical supplies. The ministers agreed to intensify their efforts to achieve the goals of the WTO trade and health Initiative, to address export restrictions, and to prevent supply chain disruptions for essential medicines and other medical supplies.”

According to the Global Affairs Canada report: “The ministers discussed how to enhance their support for WTO director-general Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s ongoing work with the global pharmaceutical sector to accelerate the production and equitable distribution of effective, safe, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies. The ministers discussed the proposal on a waiver for intellectual property protection, in particular for COVID-19 vaccines, under the WTO’s agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). They also emphasized the importance of the engagement of all WTO members in the WTO’s broader response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Minister Ng, noted: “The global COVID-19 pandemic will not be over anywhere until it is over everywhere. Canada will continue to work with its international partners and lead the Ottawa Group in strengthening global supply chains and accelerating the production and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and related medical products so we can build back better from the pandemic.”

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