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Stop all trade and investment treaty negotiations during COVID-19 crisis and focus on access to medical supplies and saving lives

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Friends of the Earth International | 21 April 2020

Dear World Trade Organization Members,

A new coronavirus has caused a COVID-19 pandemic that has spread across nearly all countries. It is currently predicted to infect millions and cause hundreds of thousands of deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for governments to take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach to address this pandemic and refocus their attention on suppressing and controlling COVID-19.

Many governments at the national and subnational level are already doing so. Governments are working around the clock to deal with the health aspects including life-threatening shortages of medical supplies, including medicines, and healthcare workers and preparing for a global economic shock that is more severe than the 2008 global financial crisis. Government officials are being diverted to working on the pandemic, and trade negotiators and key decision makers have already fallen sick with the coronavirus.

Countries do not have enough staff and other resources to deal with just the health aspects of the pandemic. These pressures are especially intense for developing countries. Governments everywhere are facing shortages of essential test kits and other medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment including masks, ventilators, vaccines and medicines. Vaccines and potential medicines to treat COVID-19 are under clinical trial and development and it is not clear whether intellectual property will be a barrier to their supply, access and affordability due to currently applicable obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and free trade agreements.

Given this clear and urgent priority, we are shocked that some trade negotiations are still continuing in the WTO, as well as bilaterally and regionally, using virtual technologies. It is not feasible for many developing and least developed countries to participate, given the digital divide and the need to focus all governmental resources on this public health emergency. Nor should countries be diverting their resources into negotiating rules for a world that will be unimaginably different once the pandemic subsides.

The first and only priority for trade negotiators at this time should be to remove all obstacles, including intellectual property rules, in existing agreements that hinder timely and affordable access to medical supplies, such as lifesaving medicines, devices, diagnostics and vaccines, and the ability of governments to take whatever steps are necessary to address this crisis.

Unilateral sanctions that prevent countries from obtaining essential medical supplies must end.

We call on WTO Members to ensure that all countries have the flexibilities to set aside trade rules that constrain their ability to resolve the pandemic crisis, without fear of repercussions, and to cease other negotiations and activities that divert their energy and resources from that goal.

We further call on you to recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates a fundamental re-think of the types of rules that are negotiated in trade agreements, including those that can encourage monopolies and reduce affordable access to all forms of medical supplies, and put at risk the lives of people in every country of the world.


Endorsers as of April 17, 2020:

International and Regional Networks:

  1. ActionAid International
  2. African Center for Tax and Governance
  3. All Win Network
  4. Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y el Caribe-ATALC
  5. Arab Forum for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  6. Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND)
  7. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law & Development (APWLD)
  8. Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN)
  9. Association of World Citizens
  10. Banana Link
  11. BRICS Feminist Watch
  12. Central latinoamericana y caribeña de trabajadores del estado (CLATE)
  13. Columban Missionaries
  14. Confederación Sindical de trabajadores/as de las Américas (CSA)
  15. DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era)
  16. Disabled People’s International
  17. Diverse Voices and Action (DIVA) for Equality
  18. Dynamique des Organisations de la Société Civile d’Afrique Francophone (OSCAF)
  20. Eastern Himalayan Network on Climate Change
  21. Education International
  22. ESAFF - Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale farmers Forum
  23. FEMNET - African Women’s Development and Communication Network
  24. Focus on the Global South
  25. Friends of the Earth Europe
  26. Friends of the Earth International
  27. Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ)
  28. Global Policy Forum
  29. GRAIN
  30. Greenpeace
  31. Groupe de recherche et d’initiative pour la liberation de l’Afrique (GRILA)
  32. Hakimadini
  33. IBON International
  34. Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP)
  35. Institute for Planetary Syntheisis
  36. Institute for Social Democracy
  37. Internacional de Servicios Públicos, paises andinos
  38. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
  39. International Transport Workers’ Federation - ITF
  40. International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF)
  41. International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific)
  42. Lumiere Synergie pour le Developpement
  43. Masifundise/WFFP
  44. Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign
  45. Missionary Society of St. Columban
  46. Moana Nui Action Alliance Pacific regional trade and globalization campaigner.
  47. New South Wales Teachers Federation
  48. Oxfam International
  49. Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG)
  50. Peoples Health Movement
  51. Public Services International (PSI)
  52. Red de Género y Comercio-América Latina
  53. Red Latinoamericana Mujeres Transformando la Economía - REMTE
  54. Regions Refocus
  55. Réseau Foi & Justice Afrique Europe antenne France
  56. RIPESS-Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy
  57. Sisters of Charity Federation
  58. Social Watch
  59. Society for International Development (SID)
  60. Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries
  61. TCHAPE, Tchad Agir Pour l’Environnement
  62. Third World Network
  63. Third World Network TWN-AFRICA
  64. Transnational Institute (TNI)
  65. UNI Global Union
  66. UNICOM
  67. Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA
  68. National Organisations:
  69. Amigos de la Tierra Argentina, Argentina
  70. Fundación Vía Libre, Argentina
  71. IMT-UNTREF, Argentina
  72. Instituto de Estudios Sobre Estado y Participación IDEP-ATE ,Argentina
  73. Unión del Personal Civil de la Nación (UPCN), Argentina
  74. AID/WATCH, Australia
  75. Australian Arts Trust, Australia
  76. Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET), Australia
  77. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW Branch, Australia
  78. Catholics in Coalition for Justice and Peace, Australia
  79. Community and Public Sector Union (SPSF), Australia
  80. Data Stream Pty Limited, Australia
  81. Gene Ethics, Australia
  82. GetUp, Australia
  83. Grail Women for Justice, Australia
  84. International Grail Justice in Trade Agreements Network, Australia
  85. Maritime Union of Australia, Victoria Branch, Australia
  86. Missionary Society of St Columban, Australia
  87. NSW Nurses & Midwives’ Association, Australia
  88. Public Health Association of Australia, Australia
  89. Society of Presentation Sisters of Australia and PNG, Australia
  90. United Workers Union, Australia
  91. Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australia
  92. Anders Handeln, Austria
  93. Attac Austria, Austria
  94. Center for Encounter and Active Non-Violence, Austria
  95. ÖBV-Via Campesina Austria, Austria
  96. Bahrain Transparency Society, Bahrain
  97. COAST Trust, Bangladesh
  98. Food Security Network (KHANI), Bangladesh
  99. Participatory Research Action Network- PRAN, Bangladesh
  100. Women Development Program, Bangladesh
  101. ISDE Bangladesh, Bangladesh
  102. 11.11.11, Belgium, Belgium
  103. CETRI - Centre tricontinental, Belgium
  104. Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Belgium
  105. REJEB Benin, Benin
  106. Social Watch, Bénin
  107. Fundación, Bolivia
  108. Reacción Climática, Bolivia
  109. Solidarité Bosnie, Bosnia
  110. Jubileu Sul, Brazil
  111. Gestos, Brazil
  112. Rede Brasileira Pela Integração dos Povos (REBRIP), Brazil
  113. RESOCIDE, Burkina Faso
  114. DUKINGIRE ISI YACU, Burundi
  115. Associação Comercial Agrícola Industrial e de Serviços de Santiago (ACAISA), Cabo Verde
  116. Jeudis de Cotonou, Cameroon
  117. Council of Canadians/Conseil des Canadiens, Canada
  118. Northumberland Chapter of the Council of Canadians, Canada
  119. TCHAPE, Tchad Agir Pour l’Environnement, Chad
  120. Fundación Constituyente XXI, Chile
  121. Plataforma Chile Mejor sin Tratados de Libre Comercio, Chile
  122. CENSAT Amigos de la Tierra Colombia, Colombia
  123. Observatorio de victimas, Colombia
  124. Sindicato de trabajadores de acuavalle, Colombia
  125. Asociación Nacional de Profesionales en Enfermería A.N.P.E., Costa Rica
  126. Ekumenická akademie (Ecumenical Academy), Czech Republic
  127. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, Dominican Republic
  128. Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
  129. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos "Segundo Montes Mozo SJ" (CSMM), Ecuador
  130. FEDAEPS, Ecuador
  131. Red Ecuador Decide Mejor sin TLC, Ecuador
  132. New Wind Association, Finland
  133. Aitec, France
  134. Amis de la Terre France, France
  135. Attac France, France
  136. Collectif stop TAFTA, France
  137. Comité pour l’abolition des dettes illégitimes France (CADTM), France
  138. Commerce Equitable France, France
  139. Confédération paysanne, France
  140. Coordination EAU bien commun France, France
  141. France Nature Environnement, France
  142. Notre Affaire à Tous, France
  143. Reseau ROOSEVELT.IDF, France
  144. Bio consom’acteurs, France
  145. Bread for the World, Germany
  146. Alliance for Development, Ghana
  147. The Centre for the Advancement of Marginalized Persons, Ghana
  148. Naturefriends Greece, Greece
  149. PAPDA, Haiti
  150. ATTAC Hungary, Hungary
  151. Action for Women and Child Advancement (AWCA), India
  152. All India Drug Action Network, India
  153. Ansar-un-Nissa, India
  154. Association For Promotion Sustainable Development, India
  155. Federation of Indian Micro and Small & Medium Enterprises (FISME), India
  156. Indian Social Action Forum, India
  157. Initiative for health & equity in society, India
  158. IT for Change, India
  159. Nivedita Foundation Trust, India
  160. Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology, India
  161. United NGOs Mission Manipur, India
  162. Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ), Indonesia
  163. Climate Change Ireland, Ireland
  164. Fís Nua, Ireland
  165. Keep Ireland Fracking Free, Ireland
  166. Fairwatch, Italy
  167. Stop TTIP/CETA Italia Campaign, Italy
  168. Tripla Difesa Onlus Internazional No Violence, Italy
  169. Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers, Jamaica
  170. Jamaica Civil Service Association, Jamaica
  171. Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, Jamaica
  172. Globalization Watch Hiroshima, Japan
  173. Pacific Asia Resource Center(PARC), Japan
  174. People’s Action against TPP, Japan
  175. Kenya Human Rights Commission, Kenya
  176. Kenya Freedom From Hunger Council, Kenya
  177. Lebanese Union of Persons with Physical Disabilities, Lebanon
  178. Policy Analysis and Research Institute of Lesotho (PARIL), Lesotho
  179. CELL, Luxembourg
  180. Malaysian Women’s Action on Tobacco Control & Health (MyWATCH), Malaysia
  181. Badan Bertindak Selamatkan Industri Padi dan Beras (Padi Rescue), Malaysia
  182. Consumers’ Association of Penang, Malaysia
  183. Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+), Malaysia
  184. Sustainable Development Network Malaysia, Malaysia
  185. Treat Every Environment Special, Malaysia
  186. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia), Malaysia
  187. Le Réseau Euromed maroc, Marocco
  188. Government Services Employees Association, Mauritius
  189. Equidad de Género: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia, México
  190. Fundación Mexicana para la Planeación Familiara, AC MEXFAM, México
  191. Asociación Nacional de Industriales de Transformación (ANIT), México
  192. DECA, EQUIPO PUEBLO, México
  193. Iniciativas para El Desarrollo de la Mujer Oaxaqueña AC (IDEMO), México
  194. GEFONT-Nepal, Nepal
  195. Rural Area Development Programme (RADP), Nepal
  196. Youth For Environment Education And Development Foundation (YFEED Foundation), Nepal
  197. Both ENDS, Netherlands
  198. Handel Anders! coalitie, Netherlands
  199. Platform Aarde Boer Consument, Netherlands
  200. Its Our Future, New Zealand
  201. Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), New Zealand
  202. Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa, New Zealand
  203. Doctors For Healthy Trade, New Zealand
  204. New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, New Zealand
  205. New Zealand Public Service Association, New Zealand
  206. Tax Justice Aotearoa, New Zealand
  207. FIRST Union, New Zealand
  208. CAFSO-WRAG for Development, Nigeria
  209. Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development, Nigeria
  211. Norwegian Trade Campaign, Norway
  212. Spire, Norway
  213. Attac Norway, Norway
  214. Dharti Development Foundation, Pakistan
  215. NOOR PAKISTAN, Pakistan
  216. Roots for Equity, Pakistan
  217. Sukaar Welfare Organization, Pakistan
  218. Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement (CECIDE), Papua New Guinea
  220. Decidamos, Paraguay
  221. Central Unitaria de Trabajadores del Perú, CUT PERÚ, Perú
  222. Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), Philippines
  223. Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), Philippines
  224. Karapatan Alliance, Philippines
  225. Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (SENTRO), Philippines
  226. Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines, Philippines
  227. TROCA-Plataforma por um Comércio Internacional Justo, Portugal
  228. Africaine de Recherche et de Coopération Pour l’Appui au Développement Endogène ARCADE, Senegal
  229. Ongd AFRICANDO, Senegal
  230. African Futures Institute, South Africa
  231. SEATINI South Africa, South Africa
  232. People’s Health Institute, South Korea
  233. Unión Latina de Economía Política de la Información, la Comunicación y la Cultura (ULEPICC), Spain
  234. Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), Sri Lanka
  235. Center for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development (CSEND), Switzerland
  236. Nord Sud XXI, Switzerland
  237. ADETRA, Switzerland
  238. Association for Proper Internet Governance, Switzerland
  239. Solidarité Suisse-Guinée, Switzerland
  240. Humanitaire Plus, Togo
  241. Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux, Tunisia
  242. Observatoire Tunisien de l’Economie, Tunisia
  243. Alofa Tuvalu, Tuvalu
  244. Southern and Eastern Africa Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute SEATINI- Uganda, Uganda
  245. Keep Our NHS Public, United Kingdom
  246. Global Justice Now, UK, United Kingdom
  247. Just Treatment, United Kingdom
  248. War on Want, United Kingdom
  249. Women’s Budget Group, United Kingdom
  250. Citizens Trade Campaign, United States
  251. Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, United States
  252. Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project, United States
  253. Public Citizen, United States
  254. The Oakland Institute, United States
  255. National Family Farm Coalition, United States
  256. REDES-Amigos de la Tierra Uruguay, Uruguay
  257. Vanuatu Human Rights Coalition, Vanuatu
  258. Asoc. cooperativa eps textil m ribas, Venezuela
  259. Coalición de tendencias Clasista (CTC-VZLA), Venezuela

 source: Friends of the Earth International