Stalling negotiations on waiver will harm WTO’s credibility, warns India2 min read . Updated: 01 Jun 2021, 11:46 PM IST
- The warning came after the EU, UK, Australia and Singapore opposed negotiations at the WTO for such a waiver
With countries of European Union, United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore opposing text-based negotiations for intellectual property waiver for covid-19 vaccines and drugs, India on Monday cautioned this will do more harm to the credibility of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the collective failure will be remembered by posterity.
“We often hear that the WTO is losing its relevance and credibility, well, if WTO does not deliver during the pandemic on the issues and agreements for which it bears responsibility, and to think that by concluding the fisheries negotiation alone amidst these difficult times will the WTO reinstate its credibility and relevance, would be a grave mistake. Not allowing text-based negotiations will do more harm to WTO’s credibility and this collective failure will be remembered by posterity," India said during the informal TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Council meeting on Monday.
The co-sponsors of a patent waiver to boost supplies of life-saving drugs and vaccines for covid-19, pioneered by India and South Africa presented a revised proposal on 21 May seeking that the temporary waiver be in place for at least three years, given the uncertainty regarding vaccine effectiveness for children and against new variants. However, the proposal has hit a roadblock even though the US last month, came out in the open supporting the idea and expressing its readiness for text-based negotiation at the WTO.
Dissenting economies have questioned the effectiveness of TRIPS waiver for fast-tracking access to covid vaccines across the world. In a meeting on 23 February they asked co-sponsors such as India and South Africa if spare manufacturing capacity is available to produce vaccines even if a waiver is granted. EU said while it agrees that the ramping up of manufacturing capacity is a clear priority now and any available manufacturing capacity anywhere in the world should be used to the full extent, “any indication of where underused capacity exists as indicated by some members would be very welcome".
India on Monday said the co-sponsors of the proposal recognise that intellectual properties (IPs) are not the only barrier to augmenting manufacturing and addressing supply side constraints. “However, we do believe that IPs are the biggest barrier in addressing supply side constraints, and thus need to be addressed on priority. The waiver is not sufficient but rather necessary element of a multipronged strategy. The TRIPS waiver is a necessary, proportionate and temporary legal measure for removing IP barriers and paving the way for more companies to produce COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics or diagnostics by providing them freedom to operate without the fear of infringement of IP rights or the threat of litigation," it added.
The IMF in a recent paper has calculated that an immediate investment of $50 billion by developed countries for global vaccination efforts would yield a whopping $9 trillion in economic growth by 2025, holding that this could be the highest return on public investment in modern history. “We have been presenting similar arguments in our previous statements emphasising upon the need for urgent steps for containing the pandemic by augmenting vaccine production to salvage the loss of $9.2 trillion in economic output and additional burden of $26 trillion in crisis support to the global economy. With IMF echoing similar sentiment we hope that the members will pay more heed," India said.
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