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.