Human Rights and International Trade: How does the Trade System Violate Human Rights under the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Hui Wan

Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, Singapore.


Keywords: Human rights, International trade, COVID-19 vaccine, Vaccine apartheid, Human rights protection, TRIPS, Human rights law.


Under COVID-19, the free trade system, especially the global intellectual property regime, is violating human rights in new ways. In the current fragmented state of international health law and human rights law, intellectual property law under the global trading system is commoditizing COVID-19 vaccines and other essential medicines, prioritizing commercial interests and patent protection over human rights. Although the international human rights system has issued a number of resolutions and reports on this issue, and many international and national organizations have also introduced mechanisms similar to the COVAX plan, the situation of "vaccine apartheid" and the marginalization of the interests of people in poor areas still exists. Therefore, this paper proposes some initial recommendations for better safeguarding of human rights during the COVID-19 outbreak, such as strengthening international cooperation or highlighting the human rights responsibilities of non-state actors, including multinational corporations and NGOs.


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