WTO lists bottlenecks against distribution of critical COVID-19 products

The Directors-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Daren Tang, the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, , and the WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) says inputs used in manufacturing, distribution, and approval, therapeutics and pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and medical devices are some of the trade-related bottlenecks and trade-facilitating measures against critical products to combat COVID-19.

This is contained the WTO Secretariat indicative list which was released in advance of a High-Level Dialogue by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the WTO yesterday on expanding COVID-19 vaccines manufacturing to promote equitable access.

The indicative list is based on issues identified and suggestions made by speakers at the WTO webinar Regulatory Cooperation during the COVID-19 Pandemic, on 2 June 2021, and the WTO symposium COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chain and Regulatory Transparency, on 29 June 2021.

On trade-related bottlenecks, the list identifies a series of issues raised by speakers at those events in relation to vaccine manufacturing and its inputs; vaccine regulatory approval; vaccine distribution; therapeutics and pharmaceuticals; and diagnostics and medical devices.

Regarding possible trade-facilitating measures, the list includes suggestions by speakers in connection with: general import, export and transit procedures; vaccine manufacturing and its inputs; vaccine regulatory approval; therapeutics (pharmaceuticals); diagnostics and medical devices; and general regulatory aspects.

One common theme that emerges from the list is that essential goods and inputs need to flow efficiently and expeditiously to support the rapid scaling up of COVID-19 production capacity worldwide. The delay of a single component may significantly slow down, or even halt, vaccine production given the globally integrated supply chains that underpin COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing.

According to WTO, the list is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all specific trade barriers, nor does it make any judgment on the existence or importance of bottlenecks, nor on the desirability of implementing any of the suggestions on trade-facilitating measures.

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