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Australia to support vaccine waiver after months of pressure from human rights groups

'Australia to support vaccine waiver after months of pressure from human rights groups', 8 September 2021

Australia will support a global push to waive intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines to allow for cheaper generic versions to be manufactured in developing nations, following months of pressure from human rights groups and foreign governments.

Australia has been one of the last holdouts not to publicly back the plan, and following months of outright resistance and then support only for ongoing negotiations, the trade and investment minister, Dan Tehan, said Australia would now support the waiver at the World Trade Organization.

For months, Australia’s reluctance to back the waiver had generated criticism from human rights and aid groups, and had even triggered protests outside Australia’s consulate in San Francisco.

On Wednesday, Tehan cited a shift in US policy in May as the reason behind Australia’s support. Russia and China had also supported the waiver in recent months.

A group of 15 NGOs and churches in the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (Aftinet) met Tehan on Tuesday, and released a statement on Wednesday revealing that the minister had told them Australia would support a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) waiver for Covid-19 vaccines.

The groups urged the Australian government to take a stronger public position, including during the foreign minister Marise Payne’s visit to India on 11 September, and at the next meeting of the WTO meeting on 14 September.

Asked about the development on Wednesday, Tehan said “we have always said we would support a Trips waiver when it came to Covid-19”.

“When the US came out and said this, the prime minister welcomed that news,” Tehan told reporters in Canberra.

“We continue to work constructively in Geneva to do everything we can to expand the production of vaccines globally because we need everyone across the globe to get access to a vaccine, ultimately, to be able to be safe.

“We’ve already expressed that support and we’ve been working with countries to get a resolution to this issue,” Tehan said...

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