Developed world under pressure as India-South Africa proposal gains more support: Goyal

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on February 25, 2021

Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal   -  PTI

With 57 members co-sponsoring the proposal and many more backing it on the floor, total support crossed 100, say Geneva-based officials

The growing support for India and South Africa’s proposal for temporary waiver of certain TRIPS (intellectual rights) obligations at the WTO to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic has put developed countries under pressure, Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has said.

The Minister pointed out that 57 countries had co-sponsored the India-Africa proposal and a large number of African countries and LDCs were already on board. With many more members supporting the proposal on the floor, such as the ACP Group, Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Honduras, Cuba, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Indonesia, Tunisia, Mali and Mauritius, the total support has crossed 100, officials in Geneva say.

“The developed world is under pressure. Because, on one hand, they talk about supporting each other and a multilateral fight against the Covid pandemic and on the other hand, they are looking at protecting interests of few companies only in terms of innovation cost and R&D,” the Minister said in a virtual address at the 6 International Conference on Pharmaceutical & Medical Devices Sector on Thursday.

The 57 countries co-sponsoring the proposal include Kenya, Eswatini, Mozambique, Pakistan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, the African Group and the LDC (least-developed countries) group.

Equitable access

Goyal recounted that India, together with South Africa, had introduced the proposal in the WTO’s TRIPS council for a TRIPS waiver during the Covid pandemic to allow more and more countries to get equitable access to medicines and other products.

Calling upon the pharmaceutical industry across the world to show a big heart and support the TRIPS waiver, the Minister said this will help the entire world come out of the pandemic much faster.

The Indian delegate to the WTO, at the TRIPS Council meeting this week, asked developed country governments to explain why they were so eager to protect the commercial interests of only a few companies in the pharmaceuticals sector when they had intervened to suspend air transport and restrict mobility to prevent the spread of the virus, the Geneva-based official said.

He further pointed out that members who dismissed their arguments about the possibility of shortages of vaccines, therapeutics and other equipment were themselves facing shortages in their jurisdictions although they had negotiated advanced purchase agreements.

Members such as the US, the EU, Australia, Switzerland and Japan and a handful of developing nations including China and Chile have been opposing the proposal seeking more evidence-based discussion.

The Indian delegate pointed out that the endless questions being posed by developed countries on the proposal could be seen as a way of intentionally delaying the start of text-based negotiations on the waiver, the official said.

Goyal also said the Indian pharmaceutical and health care sector should adopt best practices in terms of quality, facility and commitment to maintain high standards.


Published on February 25, 2021

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