India pitches for expeditious IPR waiver on Covid vaccines

at 8:46 pm
Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal (File Pic)

New Delhi (NVI) : India today pushed for expeditious consensus building on its proposal for IPR waiver on Covid-related vaccines at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), saying it was necessary to allow everyone to have “equitable, timely and affordable” access to inoculation, therapeutics and other goods required to deal with the pandemic.

Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal, while speaking on a platform of World Economic Forum, also pitched for “resilient global supply chains”, especially the material related to the Covid vaccines, against the backdrop of continued disruptions in transfer of raw materials from the US to India.

“Countries must facilitate export of COVID-19 related health products to countries that urgently require these for saving precious lives…. This is especially relevant for vaccines,” he said, urging the countries to share vaccines liberally with those who are in dire need of it.

He reminded the world that during the first wave of the pandemic last year, India had fulfilled all its international commitments and obligations.

“To overcome this crisis much faster, we need not only the acceptance of the TRIPS waiver, but also expeditious consensus building, transfer of technology & availability of the raw materials to make this happen,” Goyal said at the World Economic Forum’s Global Trade Outlook Session.

India and South Africa had moved the WTO on October 2 last year for a relaxation in the norms of the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to ensure quick and affordable access to vaccines and medicines for developing countries.

Goyal said, India wants “to cover medicines, vaccinations and associated infrastructure to address the challenge of COVID.”

The Minister said that “the US has given limited support for vaccines patent issue, which we heartily welcome, and that is the pressing need of today.”

He said that “under the circumstances, speed is of essence, as this will allow all to meet the objective of equitable, timely and affordable access for all to vaccines, therapeutics and other goods required to deal with COVID-19 pandemic.”

Goyal underlined that “India has always been IP compliant & would continue to be so.”

India’s proposal has been pending at the WTO all these months but on May 5, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the Biden-Harris Administration supports waiving the intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures.  The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” she said.

“We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) needed to make that happen. Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved,” Tai added.

Goyal said that India had provided 67 million doses of Covid vaccine earlier, believing in the motto of ‘VasudhevKatumbakam” (the whole world is one).

He assured that with enhanced manufacturing and supply of vaccines, India would be at the forefront in supporting the Least Developed Countries and the developing nations in this hour of need.

Talking about the Covid crisis, the Minister said that India today is experiencing the 2nd wave of pandemic, whose magnitude is severe.

He said that India is fighting the pandemic boldly and the Government has ramped up procurement of critical supplies, distribution of oxygen supplies across states & is ensuring real-time monitoring.

“Together with our continued efforts, we would soon be able to overcome this global challenge & emerge stronger,” Goyal said.

At the same time, he said that “India seeks to be an integral part of the resilient global supply chains.”

Appreciating the support extended by countries to India in these challenging times, Goyal said that global solidarity is the need of the hour.

The Commerce and Industry Minister said India is looking forward to the trade and investment negotiations & the potential they hold for economic growth & prosperity for the people of India, UK & the countries of the EU.

The Minister said that India resonates with the countries and entities like the UK, EU, Australia, Canada and the US, in terms of democracy, transparency, rule of law, independence of courts, investment rules, etc. Moreover, Indian trade with them is by and large balanced. 

However, “we certainly cannot accept the agenda of a limited set of countries, as lopsided trading arrangements, subsidy arrangements & benefits that the developed world is enjoying, have to be addressed with more compassion & more sincerity at the WTO,” he said.

He said “the agenda of the world will have to be addressed fairly, equitably & in the true spirit of the WTO.

He said, “India feels much more comfortable in launching negotiations for a Balanced, Ambitious, Comprehensive, and Mutually Beneficial Agreement on trade & investment protection.”

In this context, he said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which India refused to join, was “not a balanced agreement as it would have hurt India’s farmers, our MSMEs and dairy industry.”

Therefore, “it was prudent for India not to join RCEP,” the Minister added.