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East Asia Forum

The narrowing economic gap between the United States and China has led to growing use of World Trade Organization (WTO) security exceptions, a development requiring a review to prevent abuse of the concept. A balance between these exceptions and free trade must be maintained through restoring the WTO's legislative function, realising the goals of Joint Statement Initiatives and clarifying trade remedy measures.

The rapid narrowing of the economic and technological gap between the United States and China since the late 2010s has triggered confrontation. Because of this, security-based perspectives have shaped various measures introduced into trade and commerce around the world.


Did they or didn’t they?

This has been one of the many questions plaguing beleaguered negotiators in Geneva negotiating a Pandemic Agreement at WHO this week, when uncertainty around a Presidential communication from South Africa caused complications exacerbating already difficult circumstances. Conflicting signals from the government of South Africa on the overall position of the Africa Group, a key player in these negotiations, has led to confusion at a critical time in these discussions.

In this story, we try to unpack what has transpired over the last 48 hours, even as uncertainty continues at the time of publishing this edition.

The South African case is illustrative of the pressures faced by governments from different quarters and interest groups as countries negotiate a Pandemic Agreement under difficult circumstances. South Africa heads into election mode next week on May 29th, when the World Health Assembly considers a resolution on the Pandemic Agreement.


In a number of global negotiations on the transfer of technology and knowledge, there are industry-led lobbying efforts to limit such transfers to measures that are on mutually agreed Page 2 of 27 terms (MAT), or voluntary and on mutually agreed terms (VMAT). Sometimes it is asserted that as a practical matter, the transfer of manufacturing know-how can only be provided through voluntary measures, and assertions are sometimes made that there is no legal basis for transfers of know-how, access to materials such as product samples and cell lines, or access to and the use of regulatory filings and data.

This note looks at one type of legal mechanism, competition law, and provides some examples of cases where the United States competition authorities have mandated the transfer of manufacturing know-how and access to materials and regulatory filings.

Read note in full

See also subsequent post by Arianna Schouten, "What measures do US competition authorities refer to in technology transfer mandates"

Global Climate and Health Alliance

Geneva, 21 May 2024:- Ahead of next week’s World Health Assembly (WHA 77, May 27-June 1), the Global Climate and Health Alliance is calling on World Health Organization (WHO) member states to adopt a proposed resolution on Climate Change and Health. The draft resolution clearly states that climate change is a major threat to global public health, and sets out a framework to promote health and build climate-resilient and sustainable health systems [1]. The key global health meeting takes place just ahead of next month’s UN Climate negotiations in Bonn (SB 60).

Al Omana via ProMED

Date: Tue 21 May 2024
Source: Al-Omana [in Arabic, summ. & trans. Mod.MM, edited]

The director of the Epidemiological Surveillance Department, Ministry of Health, Aden governorate, has revealed that they have registered 80 cases of cholera during 24 hours, which is the maximum number of cases within one day since this new outbreak of cholera started. He also mentioned that the number of registered cholera cases in the governorate has reached 1300 cases, with 9 deaths since the beginning of this year (2024), noting that the current available hospital capacities for the admitted cholera patients have been exceeded and are insufficient to meet the influx of cases.

Yemen has been hard hit by a prolonged and protracted outbreak of cholera over the past years. The combined efforts of health authorities and international partners have brought the disease to a halt for a while, but it seems to have reemerged again, especially in the southern governorates as mentioned above. - Mod.MM


In a powerful, hard-hitting letter, Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, also the African Union Champion on Pandemic Prevention Preparedness & Response, has laid down the most important priorities for the Africa Group in the negotiations for a new Pandemic Agreement currently underway at WHO in Geneva.

Geneva Health Files has learned that the letter, dated May 20th, 2024, was sent to key institutions and stakeholders on the African continent.

We publish the letter sent by the Presidency of South Africa on May 20, 2024, laying down the most important priorities for the continent.

This is what it says (also uploaded below):


South Centre

The 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) adopted a decision that marks a pivotal shift in the operational framework of the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce (WPEC) of the organisation. This Policy Brief examines how this Decision can enhance the trajectory of the e-commerce discourse within the WTO, elaborates on its implications and makes recommendations aimed at facilitating developing countries’ engagement in the WPEC.



Global progress on improving maternal, newborn, and child survival has stalled. Many regions of the world continue to experience persistently high rates of maternal and child mortality, and despite improvements between 2000 and 2015, progress is now stagnating.


 The combination of ongoing and new conflicts, climate change, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic create a perfect storm to drive back any gains that might have been made during the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) era.

The global community is off track from targets for reducing maternal mortality (SDG 3.1)


 and ending preventable deaths of newborns and children younger than 5 years (SDG 3.2).


 Globally, 287 000 women died from a maternal cause in 2020, averaging 223 deaths of mothers for each livebirth.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health, ranking the 15 families of bacteria that feature as “critical”, “high” and “medium” threats. 

The Bacterial Priority Pathogens List (BPPL) 2024’s “critical” list features bacteria that are high burden, can resist treatment and spread resistance to other bacteria.

A new entrant on the “critical” list is a third-generation cephalosporin-resistant Enterobacterales. It joins tuberculosis resistant to rifampicin, and gram-negative bacteria resistant to last-resort antibiotics.

Gram-negative bacteria have built-in abilities to find new ways to resist treatment and can pass along genetic material that allows other bacteria to become drug resistant as well.


There is considerable misinformation on social media and from some politicians and other influencers regarding the negotiations for a WHO pandemic treaty. In order to provide better understanding of what is actually being negotiated, this note provides commentary on several key articles, based upon the INB’s May 10 draft text, as published by Health Policy Watch. 1 of 17 ting-progress-up-to-10-May.pdf In general, as the negotiations have progressed, in many areas, the obligations have become softer, as the WHO INB pushes for consensus. That said, the text does create norms in several areas, and mandates and mechanisms for cooperation that are potentially important going forward. The discussion covers Articles 4 through 13bis, and Articles 19, 20, 27, 29, 30 and 31.