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WTO calls for urgent deal on IPR waiver

Director-General of the World Trade Organisation Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called for urgent action towards a comprehensive WTO outcome on pandemic response. (File Photo: AFP)Premium
Director-General of the World Trade Organisation Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called for urgent action towards a comprehensive WTO outcome on pandemic response. (File Photo: AFP)

  • WTO's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala urged members to step up efforts, suggesting that with requisite political will, members can in coming weeks reach multilateral compromises on IPR and other issues so that the WTO fully contributes to global response to Covid-19 and future pandemics

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NEW DELHI : The World Trade Organization (WTO) has urged members to step up efforts to reach a multilateral deal on waiver of intellectual property rights (IPR) on Covid-19 related vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics mooted by India to fully contribute to the global fight against the pandemic.

WTO said in a statement that a meeting was called on Monday by the multilateral body’s general council in response to India’s proposal to hold a virtual ministerial conference to discuss waiver of relevant intellectual property protections. Waiver of IPR, such as patents held by innovators will enable others to make generic versions of those products, helping reduce costs and improving competition and availability of the said products.

At the meeting, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala urged member countries to urgently step up efforts, suggesting that with the requisite political will, members can in the coming weeks reach multilateral compromises on intellectual property and other issues so that the WTO fully contributes to the global response to Covid-19 and future pandemics.

Okonjo-Iweala called for urgent action towards a comprehensive WTO outcome on pandemic response. "More than two years have passed since the onset of the pandemic. The emergence of the Omicron variant, which forced us to postpone our twelfth ministerial conference, reminded us of the risks of allowing large sections of the world to remain unvaccinated.

"We at the WTO now have to step up urgently to do our part to reach a multilateral outcome on intellectual property and other issues so as to fully contribute to the global efforts in the fight against COVID-19," the statement said quoting Okonjo-Iweala.

On 23 December 2021, India wrote to the WTO General Council Chair calling for a virtual ministerial meeting to discuss the issue.

Okonjo-Iweala updated members on her efforts to support an informal group of members to reach “a meaningful acceptable outcome" that can be built upon by the wider membership to decide on the IPR issue. Steady progress is happening on the matter, the statement said.

"There is no better time to build convergence than now," the statement said quoting the director general. She urged all members to participate actively in the discussions at the body’s general council and the TRIPS Council.

The director general said in the statement that many nations reached out to her to emphasise on the importance of other items on the WTO agenda, including fisheries subsidies, agriculture and WTO reform. She said these areas remained priorities.

The gathering heard a range of views on the proposed ministerial meeting, notably on timing, issue coverage, and the need to further narrow the differences in Geneva ahead of ministerial engagement, the statement said.

WTO General Council chair Ambassador Dacio Castillo said, in the statement,that he would continue to consult members on the Indian proposal. A common WTO response to Covid-19 "remains an urgent priority for the membership," the statement said quoting Castillo.

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