Economists and public health voices have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reject a “misleading and ineffectual proposal” leaked from World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.

“The proposal fails to waive intellectual property rules and would erect new barriers to the global supply of vaccines, treatments, and tests,” they said.

Signatories to the letter included public health voice Srinath Reddy; Joseph E Stiglitz, awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics; Rohinton P Medhora, President of the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada; and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, among others.

“A bad deal is worse than no deal”, they said, offering to “strongly support” PM should he reject the proposal.

The proposed text “reflects the interests of multinational pharmaceutical companies in preserving the deadly status quo”, they alleged, “in contrast to India and South Africa’s inspiring leadership for a meaningful waiver of IP barriers.”

The letter refers to a leaked text relating on the negotiations between the European Union, United States, South Africa, and India over a temporary waiver of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) provisions for Covid-19 medical technologies.

A TRIPS waiver is critical for low and middle-income countries to manufacture the vaccines, tests and treatments needed to end the pandemic. The signatories warn that the proposal “does not waive the intellectual property barriers necessary to deliver any meaningful access” to vaccines, treatments, or tests and actively “adds new burdensome conditions” on countries using non-voluntary licensing that are worse than the status quo.

Also, the text covers only Covid-19 vaccines, excluding treatments and diagnostics that are lifesaving, especially where vaccines are in short supply. These tools are a “crucial part of an arsenal to prevent, treat and contain COVID-19”, the letter says.