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Boost to India-South Africa proposal at WTO

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on June 01, 2021

US, China, Ukraine, New Zealand ready for text-based negotiations negotiations

In a boost to the India-South Africa proposal for intellectual property waiver for “prevention, containment or treatment” of Covid-19, the US, China, Ukraine and New Zealand have joined other co-proponents supporting the start of text-based negotiations at the WTO.

However, about a dozen members, including Australia, the EU, the UK, Japan, Switzerland, Brazil and Korea, continued to express doubts about the negotiations at a TRIPS Council meeting on Monday, a Geneva-based official told BusinessLine.

These countries also asked for more time to go through the revised proposal on the waiver submitted recently by South Africa and India, which was discussed for the first time at the TRIPS Council on Monday. The proposal is currently supported by 63 members of the WTO.

“The US, China and New Zealand, in their interventions, all talked about their support for a waiver for Covid-19 vaccines and made no mention for other medical products. But the encouraging thing is that they are ready to participate in the negotiations where the finer issues of coverage can be thrashed out,” said another source following the developments.

In their revised proposal, India and South Africa went much beyond a TRIPS waiver for vaccine and suggested that it be extended to all health products and technologies, including diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, medical devices, personal protective equipment, their materials or components, and their methods and means of manufacture for the prevention, treatment or containment of Covid-19.

Proposed duration

The proposed duration for the waiver is a minimum of three years with a decision of its termination resting on the General Council of the WTO.

Chair of the TRIPS Council, Dagfinn Sørli of Norway, suggested that members should continue engaging in the coming week and give suggestions on the format and modalities for the negotiations.

The US representative said that the country is ready for a text-based discussion with any proposal that could address the immediate need for increased vaccine production and distribution,said the Geneva-based official. It said it will comment on the revised proposal in future meetings and asked other members to act fast on it.

China supported a TRIPS waiver for Covid-19 vaccines and was ready to be fully engaged in text-based discussions with a constructive spirit, said its delegate.

New Zealand’s representative pointed out that the country’s Trade Minister has already expressed support for the waiver of IP restrictions on vaccines as part of collective effort to tackle the pandemic.

Ukraine went beyond vaccines and said that it supported text-based negotiations to ensure timely universal access to vaccines and other health products needed to fight the pandemic.

EU’s own proposal

The EU said that it will soon come up with its own proposal to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines and therapeutics among all countries which would include simple mechanisms for using compulsory licences to manufacture patented medical products.

Japan said that the revised proposal on waiver was a positive development and gave a new momentum to the discussion, together with other upcoming proposals such as the one announced by the EU.

Australia, too, said it remained open to all proposals supporting the increased production ofvaccines, including proposals for a TRIPS waiver.

Singapore, Brazil, Chinese Taipei, Korea and Norway also appreciated the revised text submitted by India and South Africa and said they would study it and respond.

Published on June 01, 2021

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