India urges WTO to relax IP norms to deal with Covid-19

Global growth to be hit if IP norms not waived to deal with Covid-19: India to WTO

The agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS came into effect in January 1995

World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva. Credit: Reuters File Photo

India on Saturday said if members of the WTO would fail to deliver on a proposal on waiving certain intellectual property obligations to deal with Covid-19 pandemic, it would impact global growth and livelihood.

In October 2020, India and South Africa submitted a proposal suggesting a waiver for all WTO (World Trade Organization) members on the implementation, application and enforcement of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19.

The agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS came into effect in January 1995. It is a multilateral agreement on intellectual property (IP) rights such as copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets.

"If we fail in the next one or two quarters or not delivering on that, let me tell you that it is not the question of equity, we are coming in the way of global growth and livelihood. It is not that we are coming in the way of life.

"It is a very simple economics that for a commercial interest of let us say $30 to $40 billion of annual vaccine output of few companies, we are coming in the way of $6-7 trillion of global GDP output in one year," Indian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, Brajendra Navnit, said at the Asia Economic Dialogue.

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Developed and rich nations are opposing the proposal. Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal had recently stated that on one hand, the developed countries talk about supporting each other and multilateral fight against Covid-19 pandemic, but on the other hand, they are looking at protecting the interests of a few companies.

The minister has added that the world is fighting the pandemic which could potentially cost $9 trillion to the world economy.

Further, Navnit said that it does not make any sense that on one side countries are providing $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion worth of fiscal stimulus, but on the other hand they are not willing to compensate for design a remuneration for IP rights' holder and expand the manufacturing by just putting $30-40 billion in bucket.

Speaking at the event, Xolelwa Mlumbi-peter, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of South Africa to the WTO, said that IP should not become a barrier to access affordable medicines.

Suggesting for holding frequent meetings of political leadership at WTO, the Ambassador said: "I strongly feel that diplomats and bureaucrats have taken over the system and they want to keep the political leadership slightly away".

Also Read | I am sure global pharma industry will support India's WTO proposal of IP waiver for Covid-19: Piyush Goyal

He added that the general council of the WTO has totally taken over the mandate of MC (ministerial conference), which is the highest decision making body of the WTO.

He also added that members can go ahead and start having more frequent interactions with political leadership "because most of the calls have to be taken by them and it can not be settled by diplomats sitting in Geneva".

The Geneva-based WTO deals with global trade and adjudicates trade disputes among member countries.

Further, he added that the members should moderate their expectations from the 12th MC, expected later this year. On special and differential treatment, João Aguiar Machado, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of EU to WTO, said that there is need to have a frank and open debate on the issue.

"We cannot pretend that developing countries want to be integrated into the multilateral trading system while at the same time sitting at the margins of that system," he said.

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