New proposal will clarify scope of IP waiver: India, S Africa

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on May 19, 2021

Welcome US plan to actively support ‘text-based’ deals

To fast-track consensus building on the proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property (IP) norms on vaccines and medical products at the WTO, India, South Africa and the 60 other co-sponsors have said their revised proposal will further clarify the scope of the waiver and also state the period in which it will apply.

In a joint communication circulated at the WTO, the countries welcomed the US decision to join the text-based negotiations and asked other members opposed to the waiver to do the same.

“Co-sponsors will soon issue an amended version of their waiver proposal with the objective of moving text-based discussions forward. The amended waiver proposal seeks to further clarify the scope of the proposed waiver while also addressing the period during which it will apply,” said the submission.

Grave situation

The countries said that this phase of discussion should be concluded as soon as possible, given the very serious situation the world was facing and the continuous mutations and emergence of new variants of SARS-COV-2.

“A failure to respond in a timely manner on the waiver proposal undermines the legitimacy and credibility of WTO,” said the communication said. The IP waiver proposal, first submitted by South Africa and India on October 2, and since then co-sponsored by about 60 members, including the African Group and the LDC Group, calls for a temporary waiver of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the “prevention, containment or treatment” of Covid-19.

A waiver would allow patented medical products and vaccines to be manufactured and supplied by generic producers without the need for licences from the patent holder.

The co-sponsors welcomed the USTR statement of May 5 stating that Washington was supportive and willing to actively participate in text-based discussions. “It is encouraging that various other delegations who had been opposing text-based discussions have undertaken to do the same. This is a significant step forward in our collective responsibility to address the scourge of Covid-19, and to ensure that we end the pandemic everywhere for everyone,” said the communication.

EU’s stance

While the US has just expressed support for IP waiver for vaccines, the proponents underlined that universal access to immunisation, treatments, testing and other products to control the pandemic should be given priority.

The EU, which has been a critic of the waiver proposal, has now said that it was ready for discussions on the waiver, but has not given an assurance of support.

As the pandemic continues to rage on globally, there have been 162,177,376 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 3,364,178 deaths, reported to the WHO. As of May 12, a total of 1,264,164,553 vaccine doses have been administered, the submission noted.

“No one should be left behind. The cosponsors call on all delegations who have not yet indicated that they will join text-based discussions to do so as soon as possible,” the submission stated.

Published on May 19, 2021

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