Economy

‘WTO pandemic response’ cannot be tool to limit export restrictions, push trade facilitation: India

Amiti Sen | Updated on: May 25, 2022

| Photo Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN

Instead, focus should be on addressing pandemic challenges including TRIPS waiver, say officials

India is opposed to efforts made by some developed nations to push elements such as limiting scope of export restrictions, expanding market access, implementing permanent disciplines for trade facilitation, and shrinking the scope of the proposed TRIPS waiver, as part of the ‘WTO response to the pandemic’ being negotiated by members. 

It wants the WTO response to Covid-19 to be focussed on addressing the challenges posed by the current pandemic, including intellectual property concerns, an official said.

“India has concerns on additional ‘permanent’ disciplines in the WTO agreements being pushed by developed members such as the US, the EU, the UK and Canada, to respond to the pandemic. India does not want to conflate the challenges of pandemic to areas like market access, reforms, export restrictions, and transparency,” an official tracking the matter told BusinessLine.

A ‘WTO response to the pandemic’ is being counted as one of the deliverables at the forthcoming 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva on June 12-15.

Draft text

The draft text on pandemic response, which is currently being negotiated between members, includes outcome on transparency and monitoring, keeping markets open and not imposing new export restrictions, accelerating trade facilitation, tariff cuts, role of trade in services; collaboration with other international organisations and stakeholders, technology transfer and a framework for future preparedness.

“At the WTO, India is insisting the TRIPS waiver should be a focus area for pandemic response while export restrictions, market access and reforms and additional permanent trade facilitation disciplines should be kept out of it,” the official said.

India and South Africa had submitted a proposal to the WTO TRIPS Council on October 2, 2020, seeking a waiver from certain provisions of the Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement for the prevention, treatment, and containment of Covid-19. It was co-sponsored by 65 countries. “We had sought a waiver of IPs not only for patents and protecting undisclosed information but also for diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, materials or components, and methods and means of manufacture,” the official said.

However, many developed countries are now trying to restrict the waiver only to vaccines and not extend to other products or to technology transfer.

“In our discussion with the Indian industry, we were told that a TRIPS waiver alone will not help companies to manufacture patented vaccines or other medical tools. There was also a need for technology transfer. We will keep insisting on this,” the official said.

Published on May 25, 2022
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