Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has sought support from World Trade Organisation member countries for the proposal made by India and South Africa to waive specific provisions of the TRIPS Agreement to enable timely and equitable availability of affordable vaccines and medicines during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister said that a decision on the proposal should be taken by the next Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the WTO, if not earlier, to address the challenges that countries with limited manufacturing capacities will face in accessing medical supplies, according to an official release circulated by the Commerce Ministry on Tuesday. Goyal was speaking at the virtual informal meeting of WTO Ministers’.

India and South Africa recently submitted a proposal for a temporary waiver of certain intellectual property provisions under the TRIPS Agreement to tide over the Covid-19 crisis. The proposal has been supported by many developing nations and LDCs but opposed by some rich nations, and a decision is yet to be taken on the matter.

On bringing about meaningful and equitable reform at the WTO, Goyal said that members needed to re-imagine the multilateral trading system and fix what has not worked in the last 25 years. “We are always ready to engage constructively with other WTO members to protect human life and work towards restoring inclusive and sustainable global economic growth,” Goyal said.

The Minister suggested that an immediate response to the heightened food security and livelihood challenges due to the pandemic would be to deliver a significant outcome on the mandated issue of a permanent solution for Public Stockholding for food security purposes (PSH) at MC12 .

He said that the pandemic had also highlighted the need for easier cross-border movement of health care professionals. A multilateral initiative that provides for easier access to medical services under Mode-4 needs to be launched immediately, and we should aim to deliver this outcome by MC12, he added.