​The US has lifted an export ban on which products - urged by new WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala?

Tue 27 Apr 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The US has changed its stance on vaccine exports in a bid to help India tackle its mounting wave of COVID-19 infections.

India reported 349,691 new cases on Sunday, a record increase for the fourth consecutive day, and 2,767 people dead. The US has been facing increasing pressure to lift export controls on raw materials intended to boost its own domestic vaccine supply the West, reports The Guardian.

US export policy reversal

President Joe Biden has previously said the US will not supply vaccines to other countries until it has enough supplies at home.

However, National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement that the US would send raw materials required for India to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for frontline workers.

“The United States is working around the clock to deploy available resources and supplies,” she said

UK help is also on its way in the form of 495 oxygen concentrators, which can extract oxygen from the air when hospital systems have run out, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators.

Prime minister Boris Johnson cancelled a trade visit to India last week due to the pandemic.

Largest vaccination drive

India, which has embarked on the world’s largest vaccination drive, has administered more than 140m doses of vaccine. So far, 8.47% of people have received one dose with 1.55% are fully vaccinated.

Although India is a major vaccine manufacturer, it exported 66 million doses since January, reports Quartz. However, this weekend it slapped a temporary ban on vaccine exports despite contractual pressures.

Left behind nations

Meanwhile, new World Trade Organization chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has urged rich nations to export more vaccines, singling out the UK and the US as she reiterated the need to ensure poor countries aren’t left behind.

“Vaccine nationalism and inequity doesn’t work,” she said at a virtual trade policy event Monday hosted by the European Commission, Bloomberg reports.

“It’s not acceptable that 80% or more of the present doses administered are largely in the richer countries,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “If we don’t pay quick attention to getting vaccines to everyone, the world will simply not be safe.”