Can Trade Innovation Avert a Global Vaccination “Moral Failure”?

Date:  March 12, 2021, 11am – 12:30pm
Location: ONLINE on Columbia University’s Sustain What Webcast

The Biden Administration takes the helm of national trade policy at one of its most critical junctures for international trade, the future and legitimacy of the WTO, and multilateralism in general. Already strained by complex international economic and political relations (and exacerbated by Covid-19 disruptions to trade), international trade law is under intense scrutiny for its make-or-break implications for the rapid and equitable distribution of Covid vaccines and other PPEs and medical supplies. More broadly, COVID-19 has raised key questions about the role of international trade law in helping to effectively and fairly avoid and manage global crises.

What lessons can be learned for trade policy about countries’ ability to access critical goods and services in the fight against Covid-19 and to manage its related health, social and economic impacts? What lessons can be drawn from other shocks? And how might the WTO and its member states move forward to help ensure international economic law drives successful cooperation in the context of future climate, health or other global crises.

Andrew Revkin, longtime New York Times journalist and founding director of the Earth Institute Initiative on Communication and Sustainability, hosted a discussion examining how the Biden Administration is likely to (and should) approach trade policy at this critical time, to ensure a robust and timely response to the pandemic, restore trust in the WTO, and help multilateralism live up to its promise, especially at times when international cooperation is needed most.

This Sustain What webcast was organized by the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment.

The webcast is archived here.


Gabrielle Marceau, Counselor, Research Division (ERSD), WTO

Petros Mavroidis, Edwin B. Parker Professor of Foreign & Comparative Law, Columbia Law School

Sanya Reid Smith, Legal Advisor and Senior Researcher, Third World Network

Michele Ruta, Lead Economist, Macroeconomics, Trade & Investment Global Practice, World Bank Group

Michele Ruta drew on his new paper ‘The Covid-19 Vaccine Production Club Will Value ChainsTemper Nationalism?’ and Sanya Reid Smith pointed to briefings on the TRIPSWaiver for the containment of Covid-19.