China backs talks on intellectual property waiver for COVID vaccines

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed China flag in this illustration

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said on Thursday that Beijing supports a proposal by the World Trade Organization for an intellectual property protection waiver on COVID-19 vaccines to enter the consultation stage.

British and European Union officials have been sceptical about the usefulness of a U.S. proposal to waive patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines, while saying they are prepared to discuss it.

Drugmakers and some other governments opposed the idea, saying it would not solve global inoculation shortages.

"China supports the WTO's proposal on IP exemptions for anti-epidemic materials such as the COVID vaccine to enter the text consultation stage," Gao said at a regular news conference in Beijing.

"China will work with all parties to actively participate in consultations and jointly promote a balanced and effective solution," he said.

(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Alex Richardson and Giles Elgood)