Policy

India, South Africa to review IP waiver proposal at WTO as US, EU refuse to comply

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on May 03, 2021

An official said that the EU, the UK have showed readiness to engage in further discussions   -  REUTERS

To consult with opposing nations to find ‘middle ground’

With the pandemic continuing to affect human lives, South Africa, India and other co-sponsors, who had demanded a temporary waiver of the intellectual property (IP) provisions on medical products at the WTO, have said that they are ready to review their proposal in order to find a “common ground” with nations opposing it.

At the TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) Council meeting on April 30, the WTO members agreed to continue consideration of the IP waiver and asked the Chair to report to the General Council on this decision at its next meeting on May 5-6, a Geneva-based trade official told BusinessLine. “The co-sponsors did not share the details of the kind of revision, its scope or nature, but they said that they will immediately start engaging with other members, including those opposing the waiver to advance discussions. They want to find a solution as soon as possible as it is vital that all impediments to the smooth flow of medicines and critical equipment are removed,” the official said. The official added that the European Union, the UK and Switzerland showed “readiness to engage in further discussions” but reiterated that undermining the IP rights is a no-go as they represent a major contribution to expanding production of the Covid-19 vaccines.

Background

In October last year, South Africa and India first submitted the proposal with the objective to allow “timely access to critical medicines, vaccines and other medical equipment” and scaling-up of “research, development, manufacturing, and supply of essential medical products”.

While there are sixty co-sponsors of the proposal, including several African nations and LDCs, and about 100 nations support it at the WTO, there are some, such as the US and the EU, that oppose it. The Biden-administration in the US has not yet changed its stance on opposing the waiver despite several influential sections of the society, including more than 100 US Congress members, supporting it.

India, at a meeting on April 22, pointed out that the world needs around 10 billion doses annually and noted that the existing approach of voluntary licenses could deliver only 4 per cent of the projected output in 2020, that is 31 million doses. “Could members who claim that voluntary licenses are working explain how and from where the current requirements will be met,” India asked.

The Indian delegation also said that there was huge untapped production potential in the developing world and getting the intellectual property and technology transfer dimension right was critical to unlocking it.

Published on May 03, 2021

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