Need quick consensus on vaccine patent waiver, transfer of tech to overcome COVID crisis: Piyush Goyal

By: |
May 12, 2021 5:52 PM

He said India cannot accept only the limited agenda of limited set of countries and the agenda of the world will have to be addressed fairly, equitably and in the true spirit of the WTO.

When asked about India's expectations from the forthcoming ministerial conference of the WTO, Goyal said the meeting should focus on issues of the developing and less developed countries to generate confidence.When asked about India's expectations from the forthcoming ministerial conference of the WTO, Goyal said the meeting should focus on issues of the developing and less developed countries to generate confidence.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday said there is a need for a quick consensus at the WTO on the proposal for patent waiver as well as transfer of technology and availability of raw materials for vaccines to deal with the ongoing COVID crisis.

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

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.

“To overcome this crisis much faster, we need not only the acceptance of the TRIPS waiver, we need expeditious consensus building, transfer of technology and availability of the raw materials to make this happen,” Goyal said at WEF’s Global Trade Outlook session.

He said that India wanted to cover medicines, vaccinations and associated infrastructure as part of its proposal to address the challenge of COVID.

The US has given “limited” support for vaccines and that is the pressing need of today, he said, adding India has huge capabilities, technical capacities, and skilled manpower to help the world in ramping up vaccination rapidly .

“I do hope that this global collaborative effort and action that is currently being led by the WTO will bear fruits. Not only acceptance of the TRIPS waiver but in expeditious consensus building, transfer of technology, availability of the molecules, and all other raw material to make this happen,” Goyal said.

He said over 100 countries have already supported the proposal and “I am sure” the developed world and those who are not yet on board will appreciate that this would benefit all.

Goyal also said that now India is hoping that the proposal would get multi-lateral support and a consensus would be quick as speed is the essence of it and if it takes months to reach the consensus or an agreement, “or we do negotiate it and we do not get raw materials for it, we are back to square one”.

He informed that India has given 67 million doses of COVID vaccine to less developed countries and developing countries.

“I doubt any other developed country looked beyond their boundaries… Today, we are facing a severe crisis, therefore we are restrained to use our limited vaccines locally. But should this (TRIPS waiver) global effort succeed, I can assure you that India will be at the forefront along with the rest of the world in supporting less developed countries and developing countries,” the minister emphasised.

He also assured pharma companies and the developed world that India has always been IP compliant and would continue to be so.

The current situation needs an extraordinary measure and all can agree that extraordinary times require out of the box solutions, he said.

Talking about the second wave of COVID, he said the government is taking steps to deal with it by ramping up production of oxygen, procurement of critical supplies and distribution of essential commodities across the country.

A lot of the measures taken in the last one year is helping prepare the nation for the second wave and now coming to support the country, he said.

Citing an example, he said India used to use less than 1,000 tonnes of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) in the pre-COVID days and even in the peak of first wave of COVID, it used about 3,000 tonnes.

Right now, he said, the country is using 9,000 tonnes of LMO and “by and large we have been able to meet requirements of the country”.

Expressing concern, he said “sadly” some parts of the international media have given “very exaggerated and a very very one-sided” versions of the situation in India.

“It is of course a very tough time, I would not at all deny that but it is not as if we are the only country which went through this, even the developed world has seen and in some cases much worse. We, with our resources are working to face this pandemic,” he said.

When asked about India’s expectations from the forthcoming ministerial conference of the WTO, Goyal said the meeting should focus on issues of the developing and less developed countries to generate confidence.

He said India cannot accept only the limited agenda of limited set of countries and the agenda of the world will have to be addressed fairly, equitably and in the true spirit of the WTO.

The ministerial conference is the highest decision making body of the 164-member Geneva-based organisation. The 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) will take place from November 30 to December 3 in Geneva. It was was originally scheduled to take place in June 2020 in Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-Sultan, but was postponed due to the pandemic.

“I personally have very very serious concerns around the fact that the developed world manages to push its agenda into every ministerial that was held and we land up only discussing areas of interest of the developed world,” he said.

He added that key issues such as agriculture subsides, and finding a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes was to be decided many years ago.

“Lopsided trading arrangements, subsidy arrangements and benefits that the developed world is enjoying have to be addressed with more compassion and more sincerity at the WTO,” he added.

On free trade agreements, he said India is negotiating with the UK, European Union, Australia and Canada as “we can” resonate with these nations in terms of democracies and transparent rule-based systems.

“We are excited about these negotiations and the potential they hold for economic growth and prosperity for the people of India, UK and the countries of the EU… with the EU and the UK, we have agreed for a comprehensive dialogue covering all streams, including sustainability and the likes,” the minister said.

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