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India for including TRIPS waiver proposal in WTO’s response package

Expressing disappointment over no progress on TRIPs waiver proposal to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, India has called for including this proposal into the WTO‘s response package being deliberated upon. In October 2020, India and South Africa had submitted the first proposal, suggesting a waiver for all WTO (World Trade Organisation) members on the implementation of certain provisions of the TRIPs Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19.

In May this year, a revised proposal was submitted by 62 co-sponsors, including India, South Africa, and Indonesia. The agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPs came into effect in January 1995. It is a multilateral agreement on intellectual property (IP) rights such as copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets.

According to India’s statement delivered by Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to the WTO Brajendra Navnit at the General Council Meeting held on 7-8 October, the waiver proposal was submitted (by India and South Africa) on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary on October 2 last year and ”we have lost a whole year and over 5 million lives while discussing this proposal”. ”It is disappointing to say the least that, even on such a critical, urgent and extraordinary issue despite commitments to engage in text-based negotiation, all we (WTO member countries) have done until now is debate and discuss the issue, thanks to a few members,” India has said. It has also stated that although WTO members have held several rounds of small group meetings, due to lack of substantive engagement by a few members, valuable time has been ”wasted” without an outcome.

According to a recent UNCTAD Trade and Development report, developing countries will, by 2025, be as much as USD 8 trillion poorer because of the coronavirus crisis, and the burden of delayed vaccination estimated at USD 2.3 trillion in terms of lost income will be borne mostly by developing countries. ”In light of such alarming data, it is disheartening to see how the interest of a majority has been conveniently side-lined, this differentiated approach to combat the pandemic is bound to fail. ”It is paramount to incorporate the waiver proposal into the WTO’s response package being deliberated upon, and we must ensure this is achieved to ensure a successful MC (ministerial conference) 12,” it said. The 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) will take place from November 30 to December 3, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland.

It was originally scheduled to take place from 8 to 11 June 2020 in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The waiver component has to be finalised before this meet and any WTO response to pandemics without this waiver element will not be credible, it said. On the proposed fisheries subsidies agreement, India has informed that it has submitted a comprehensive proposal keeping in view the demands of developing countries and LDCs (least developing countries) on S&DT (special and differential treatment) for future policy space to persify and develop the fishing sector sustainably, especially in the high seas where many of these nations generally lack presence.

”There is a need for S&DT in the form of carve-outs for low income, resource-poor and livelihood fishing or fishing related activities up to coastal Members EEZ – exclusive economic zone – (200 nautical miles),” India has said.

India for including TRIPS waiver proposal in WTO’s response package

Expressing disappointment over no progress on TRIPs waiver proposal to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, India has called for including this proposal into the WTO‘s response package being deliberated upon. In October 2020, India and South Africa had submitted the first proposal, suggesting a waiver for all WTO (World Trade Organisation) members on the implementation of certain provisions of the TRIPs Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19.

In May this year, a revised proposal was submitted by 62 co-sponsors, including India, South Africa, and Indonesia. The agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPs came into effect in January 1995. It is a multilateral agreement on intellectual property (IP) rights such as copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets.

According to India’s statement delivered by Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to the WTO Brajendra Navnit at the General Council Meeting held on 7-8 October, the waiver proposal was submitted (by India and South Africa) on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary on October 2 last year and ”we have lost a whole year and over 5 million lives while discussing this proposal”. ”It is disappointing to say the least that, even on such a critical, urgent and extraordinary issue despite commitments to engage in text-based negotiation, all we (WTO member countries) have done until now is debate and discuss the issue, thanks to a few members,” India has said. It has also stated that although WTO members have held several rounds of small group meetings, due to lack of substantive engagement by a few members, valuable time has been ”wasted” without an outcome.

According to a recent UNCTAD Trade and Development report, developing countries will, by 2025, be as much as USD 8 trillion poorer because of the coronavirus crisis, and the burden of delayed vaccination estimated at USD 2.3 trillion in terms of lost income will be borne mostly by developing countries. ”In light of such alarming data, it is disheartening to see how the interest of a majority has been conveniently side-lined, this differentiated approach to combat the pandemic is bound to fail. ”It is paramount to incorporate the waiver proposal into the WTO’s response package being deliberated upon, and we must ensure this is achieved to ensure a successful MC (ministerial conference) 12,” it said. The 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) will take place from November 30 to December 3, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland.

It was originally scheduled to take place from 8 to 11 June 2020 in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The waiver component has to be finalised before this meet and any WTO response to pandemics without this waiver element will not be credible, it said. On the proposed fisheries subsidies agreement, India has informed that it has submitted a comprehensive proposal keeping in view the demands of developing countries and LDCs (least developing countries) on S&DT (special and differential treatment) for future policy space to persify and develop the fishing sector sustainably, especially in the high seas where many of these nations generally lack presence.

”There is a need for S&DT in the form of carve-outs for low income, resource-poor and livelihood fishing or fishing related activities up to coastal Members EEZ – exclusive economic zone – (200 nautical miles),” India has said.

Show big heart to back proposal for easy access to medicines: Piyush Goyal to global pharma

Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said that 57 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have supported an India-South Africa proposal for equitable access to medicines during the ongoing pandemic and expressed hope that the global pharmaceutical industry will show “big heart” to support the proposal.

At a Ficci event, he also said that developed countries are under pressure as they talk about a multilateral fight against the Covid-19 pandemic while protecting the interests of a few companies.

India and South Africa, had in October last year, proposed a waiver for all WTO members of certain provisions of copyrights, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information in the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19. Waiver is a legal instrument provided for exceptional circumstances under the WTO.

“We now have 57 WTO members supporting us. We have many African countries, many LDCs already on board,” Goyal said at Ficci’s International Conference on Pharmaceutical & Medical Device Sector, adding that the proposal would allow more and more countries to get equitable access to medicines and other products.

“I am sure the industry will show big heart across the world and support the TRIPS waiver that India has proposed at the WTO so that the entire world can come out of the covid pandemic much faster and bring back the ‘V ‘shaped recovery to the entire world,” Goyal said.

The proposal seeks to avoid barriers to timely access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of essential medical products.

However, it is being opposed by China, the US, the EU, the UK, Switzerland, Japan and Australia, among others.

“The developed world is under pressure because on the one hand, they talk about supporting each other and multilateral fight against Covid-19 pandemic but on the other hand, they’re looking at protecting the interests of a few companies only in terms of innovation costs or R&D,” Goyal said.

The minister said that the world is fighting the pandemic which could potentially cost $9 trillion to the global economy and many sectors have collapsed like tourism, hospitality and travel.

Evergreening
Goyal also told the domestic industry to fight the global pharma giants “in their turf, in their style”.

“If evergreening or incremental innovations are hurting us in our international engagements, maybe some of us can join the bandwagon and also market our products at comparable standards with international companies and fight them in their turf, in their style,” he said.

India doesn’t allow ‘evergreening’ of patents, especially in pharma. Section 3(d) of the Patents Act prohibits the grant of ‘evergreening’ patents, which are additional patents for a drug with no therapeutic benefit and serve only to increase the term of patent monopoly. The US has often objected to this regulation.

The minister asked the generic pharmaceutical suppliers to look at innovation as generic medicines have to be made available in India at the right price in sufficient quantity. Goyal said industry can work through this along with international regulators and foreign governments.

WTO talks on Trips waiver from June 30

World Trade Organization (WTO) members will on June 30 begin talks on the scope and coverage of the waiver of provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement proposed by India and South Africa for Covid-related medicines.

At the informal meeting of the Trips Council on Thursday, it was also decided that other issues such as duration and implementation of the waiver will be discussed at a later stage depending on the first stage of talks, officials said.

Differences remain on how to ensure rapid and equitable access to vaccines and Covid-related medical products for all as the European Union and a few others are still opposing a revised proposal by India and South Africa seeking patent waivers on Covid-related medical products for three years, with a provision to review the duration annually.

“There was agreement on regular Trips Council sessions to push negotiations,” said an official.

The meeting was the first after the WTO members agreed to engage in text-based discussions on the proposal for waiver of intellectual protection rights for Covid medication.

At the Thursday meeting, the US expressed doubts about starting a discussion on the scope of the waiver instead of focusing on common objectives and said some proposals could be very expensive as they unfold over the next 5-10 years.

The discussions on the proposal will continue on July 6, 14 and 20 between which meetings among small groups would be held. The first consultation period will start soon, leading up to the first open-ended session and stock taking meeting on June 30.

The General Council of the WTO will check the progress of the negotiations on July 27-28, instead of July 21-22 as planned earlier, the official said.

EU seeks parity
The European Union, which has backed the use of flexibilities within existing frameworks such as compulsory licences instead of new ones, sought its submission to be treated on a par with the waiver proposal though India and South Africa argued that the two be discussed separately in parallel tracks.

“While the India and South Africa proposal is based on Article 9 of the WTO Agreement, what the EU has made is not a formal proposal. They can’t be treated equally,” said an expert on WTO issues.

South Africa argued that from the legal point of view of the discussions, the waiver proposal and the communication by the EU should be addressed on different tracks.