India has asked other G20 members to work on an agreement that would enable countries to use the flexibilities provided in the existing global intellectual property pact to ensure access to essential medicines, treatments and vaccines at affordable prices to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the second G20 virtual Trade and Investment Ministers Meeting on Thursday, Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal also asked members to agree to provide diagnostic and protective equipment and healthcare professionals across borders, where they are most needed, according to an official release.

Food security

Goyal pointed out that doing away with the policy instrument of export restrictions is not a panacea that will guarantee access to medical products and food for all. “In fact, such a step is likely to lead to a flight of these critical products to the highest bidder, making them inaccessible to the resource-poor,” he said.

The more effective and lasting way to ensure food security of the most vulnerable, would be by agreeing to eliminate the historic asymmetries in the Agreement on Agriculture, and delivering on the long-standing Ministerial mandate to establish permanent, adequate and accessible disciplines on public stockholding for food security purposes by the next Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation, he added.

Access to medicines

Stressing that at a time when all countries were trying to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic to the best of their abilities, the Minister called for an agreement to enable the use of TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) flexibilities to ensure access to essential medicines, treatments and vaccines at affordable prices.

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This demand is significant as such an agreement will make it possible for nations to issue compulsory licences to make generic copies of essential patented medicines that could be made available to people at prices much lower than the patented versions.

The G20 is a grouping of 20 influential members across the globe including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and the European Union.