Policy

Covid-19: Swadeshi Jagran Manch seeks EU’s support for waiver of TRIPS

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on May 20, 2021

Argues that charity, by way of donating vaccines and medical products, is not a sustainable strategy

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) has urged the European Union to unconditionally support the proposal for Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver at the WTO and constructively engage in the text-based negotiation at the earliest without compromising the purposes and objectives behind the proposal.

“After the May 5 announcement by the USTR to support text-based negotiations on the waiver proposal, many countries came forward to support the negotiation. However, the announcement of the EU is not clear in its support to text-based negotiations. Further, the EU attempted to limit the scope of the TRIPS Waiver to vaccine patents only,” pointed out Ashwani Mahajan, National Co-Convener, SJM, in a letter to the EU Ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto, on May 20.

The letter noted that the proposal mooted by India and South Africa, asking the WTO to grant a waiver for a limited number of years (to be negotiated by the TRIPS Council) from the implementation, application and enforcement of specific provisions of the TRIPS agreement, was aimed at the prevention, containment and treatment of Covid-19, which was the worst pandemic faced by humanity.

Japan, EU against waiver

The proposal has so far been co-sponsored by 62 WTO member countries and has the support of over 100 members. Several developed members, such as Japan and the EU, have been against such a waiver.

Attempts to block text-based negotiations goes against the concept of solidarity and even violates the right to health guaranteed under Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, SJM stated.

“We would like to state that the best option before us is to scale up the production of various Covid-19 medical products by removing legal barriers against freedom of operation,” the letter said.

The approach of charity, that includes donating vaccines and other medical products, is not sustainable and has so far failed to effectively address the problem. “Such an approach is likely to lead to the continuation of a monopoly by a few companies over Covid-19 medical products, and will accentuate the miseries of the people, as the same is likely to cause shortages and unaffordable treatment, which India and the world has gone through in recent months,” SJM argued in the letter.

It is also important to note that patents are not the only barrier, since access to trade secrets is also critical to scale up the production of vaccines and diagnostics, the letter added. “Therefore, the EU proposed Covid-19 Vaccine Patent Pool is a diversionary tactic and does not address the real issue. On this unprecedented international health crisis, it is important to keep peoples’ health above profit,” the SJM said, adding that the EU should engage in text-based negotiations for a waiver, so that it can be concluded at the earliest.

Published on May 20, 2021

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