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A few member countries ensured deadline on Covid-19 vaccine IP waiver talks was missed: India to WTO


Mounting an indirect attack on the developed countries, India has said at the World Trade Organisation that “few members” ensured that the July-end deadline to reach the necessary breakthrough on a crucial intellectual property rights waiver aimed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic is missed.

At an informal meeting of heads of delegations last week, New Delhi said some members failed to engage in the text-based negotiation and also raised the issue of selective interpretation of rules and procedures during the negotiations.

“Despite the agreement among members in early June to start the text-based negotiation, it is unfortunate that a few members have failed to engage in the text-based negotiation,” India said at the meeting.

The General Council of the WTO will take stock of the progress of the negotiations on July 27-28.

“Few members ensured that we are unable to meet the deadline set by the Trips Council Chair for reaching the necessary landing zone by end-July,” said India’s ambassador to WTO Brajendra Navnit.

New Delhi’s statement comes on the back of the European Union pushing its own proposal and countries such as the UK, Switzerland and Korea, which opposed the proposal, seeking country-level implementation questions, slackening the pace of the text-based talks on a possible deal on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) waiver. The proposal was first floated in October last year by India and South Africa at the WTO to ensure easier access to Covid-related medical products.

Past-the-deadline

Later, in May this year, a revised proposal was submitted by 62 cosponsors, including India, South Africa, and Indonesia.

The agreement on Trips came into effect in 1995 covering copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets.

New Delhi has also opposed a push for market access to certain Covidrelated agenda by developed countries, arguing that it will take away policy space available with the members and impose cumbersome obligations that would benefit only a few.

It said doing away with the legitimate policy instrument of export restrictions or aiming to make temporary elimination of tariffs a permanent measure or calling for stringent transparency obligations would not guarantee access to vaccines, therapeutics or diagnostics, and access to food for the most vulnerable. “In fact, such a step is likely to lead to a flight of these critical final finished products to the highest bidder, making them inaccessible to the resource-poor, further aggravating the current divide which we are seeing,” India said.

New Delhi also raised its concern on rules and procedures being conveniently and selectively interpreted. “Doing so may help few members on a particular subject, but these selective interpretations are creating precedence, which may also be used by other members,” it said.

India also proposed that the WTO cut short its month-long annual summer break to two weeks and continue talks on the key issue.

“Vacation/summer break is needed for healthcare and other frontline workers throughout the globe; not for Geneva diplomats. Can we resume after two weeks of break? We need to work and need to deliver,” India said, citing the mutating Covid-19 virus, which is producing new deadly variants and “is not going on vacation”.



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