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After yesterday's announcement by the Biden administration that it would look to support a patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to make it easier for emerging markets to produce their own doses, there has been noticeable reticence from some major EU member state gov'ts.
- The most high-profile anti-waiver gov't was that of Germany, with a statement released saying that "the protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so" and that a waiver would have "significant implications for vaccine production as a whole".
- While the French gov't welcomed the news, its European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune dismissed the act as a stunt, lambasting the US gov't saying that it was a "very political move, because so far they have exported nothing".
- Similarly in Italy, Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio said the move was "a very important signal" that the world required "free access" to vaccine patents, while PM Mario Draghi was more balanced, hailing the move but raising issues with production capacity, saying that "vaccines are a global common good. It is a priority to increase their production, ensuring their safety, and knock down the obstacles that limit vaccination campaigns".
- The US stance has clearly caught the EU and member state leaders off guard, and the announcement comes just a day before EU leaders hold a virtual summit, centred in Porto, Portugal, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The summit was, and nominally still is, intended to develop relations between the two sides ahead of the publication of a joint communication on the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in September.
- However, with India struggling under a hugely destabilising wave of COVID-19 infections, hospitalisations, and deaths, focus is likely to centre on potential EU assistance to the stricken south Asian nation. With the US seemingly making positive noises, EU leaders will be wary of sounding too protectionist towards a nation with which it is seeking much closer economic and political links.
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