I am sure global pharma industry will support India’s WTO proposal of IP waiver for COVID-19: Piyush Goyal

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Updated: Feb 25, 2021 5:54 PM

He said the proposal of India and South Africa would allow more and more countries to get equitable access to medicines and other products.

Piyush Goyal

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday expressed hope that global pharmaceutical industry will show “big heart” and support India’s proposal in the WTO for relaxing certain provisions in a multilateral agreement on intellectual property with a view to containing the pandemic.

In October 2020, India and South Africa submitted a proposal suggesting a waiver for all WTO (World Trade Organisation) 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.

“I am sure the industry will show big heart across the world and support the TRIPS waiver that India has proposed at the WTO so that the entire world can come out of the COVID-19 pandemic much faster and bring back the ‘V ‘shaped recovery to the entire world,” Goyal said at a FICCI webinar on pharmaceuticals.

He said the developed world is under pressure as many WTO members including least developed countries and African nations are supporting this proposal.

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,” he rued.

The minister said the world is fighting the pandemic which could potentially cost USD 9 trillion to the world economy and many sectors like tourism, hospitality, and travel have collapsed.

He said the proposal of India and South Africa would allow more and more countries to get equitable access to medicines and other products.

The waiver, proposed by the two countries, would cover obligations in four sections of Part II of the TRIPS Agreement — Section 1 ( copyright and related rights), Section 4 (industrial designs), Section 5 (patents) and Section 7 (protection of undisclosed information).

Goyal also said following best standards and quality norms would help boost growth of the pharma industry.

Waiver is a legal instrument provided for exceptional circumstances under the WTO, which is a Geneva-based body dealing with global trade norms and adjudicating trade disputes.

Since COVID-19 pandemic is an extremely exceptional crisis, the proposed limited, temporary and proportionate waiver from certain provisions of TRIPS Agreement, is within the framework of multilateral trading system.

“We now have 57 WTO members supporting us (on the proposal),” Goyal said.

The minister said the proposal has put the developed countries under pressure and they are trying to protect the interests of some pharmaceutical companies.

He further said regulatory and good manufacturing practices, systems and certifications, approvals, always help grow in scale and bring down the price.

The minister noted that the world today needs “CURE” – Cost-effective Universal solution through Research and Enterprise.

If we take it upon ourselves that India is going to CURE the world, I see no limitations in our ability to aspire to become a world dominant leader in the field of med-tech, medical devices, healthcare provider,” he added.

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