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, says India.
India and South Africa, in October 2020, had submitted a proposal suggesting a waiver for all WTO 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.
Brajendra Navnit, Indian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, at the Asia Economic Dialogue said it is a very simple economics that for a commercial interest of, let us say, USD 30 to USD 40 billion of annual vaccine output of few companies, we are coming in the way of USD 6-7 trillion of global GDP output in one year. “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.”
Piyush Goyal, Commerce and Industry Minister, 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. Goyal said the world is fighting the pandemic which could potentially cost USD 9 trillion to the world economy.
Navnit said it does not make any sense that on one side countries are providing USD 1 trillion or USD 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 USD 30-40 billion in bucket.
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Xolelwa Mlumbi-peter, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of South Africa to the WTO, said IP should not become a barrier to access affordable medicines. “I strongly feel that diplomats and bureaucrats have taken over the system and they want to keep the political leadership slightly away.” He added that the general council of WTO has totally taken over the mandate of ministerial conference, the highest decision making body of the WTO.
“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 cannot be settled by diplomats sitting in Geneva.”