Revised Indian proposal on patent waiver at WTO to access Covid-19 medicine later this month
New Delhi/UNI: The World Trade Organization will consider in the second half of this month a revised text of the proposal India and South Africa are going to submit for a temporary waiver of certain patent-related obligations to access essential COVID-19 medicines and medical equipment.
At the WTO General Council meeting in Geneva on Wednesday, members agreed to allow the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to continue consideration of the proposal first put forward by India and South Africa in October last year.
They requested the chair of the TRIPS Council to consider holding a meeting open to all members in the second half of May to discuss the revised proposal before the next formal TRIPS Council meeting scheduled for early June.
Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala welcomed the news that the proponents of the TRIPS waiver proposal were planning to submit a revised text in a bid to reconcile positions.
Describing it as the “moral and economic issue of our time”, the WTO chief said members must respond urgently to the need for a multilateral solution to ensure equitable access to vaccines worldwide.
“We need to have a sense of urgency on how we approach this issue of response to COVID-19 because the world is watching,” she said.
“I am firmly convinced that once we can sit down with an actual text in front of us, we shall find a pragmatic way forward, acceptable to all sides that allow the kinds of answers that our developing country members are looking at with respect to vaccines, whilst at the same time looking at research and innovation and how to protect them,” DG Okonko-Iweala said.
Over 40 delegations took the floor at the General Council under this agenda item, said the world trade regulator in a statement. Members expressed different views in their discussion about the impact of Intellectual Property protection in ensuring rapid and safe access to vaccines and other medical products.
Supporters of the proposal were of the view that the current challenges posed by the pandemic can only be effectively addressed by waiving certain TRIPS obligations.
Other delegations remained unconvinced about the necessity for a waiver at the international level, with some members arguing that a waiver might undermine ongoing collaborative efforts.
The TRIPS waiver proposal was initially submitted by India and South Africa has since been co-sponsored by Kenya, Eswatini, Mozambique, Pakistan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, the African Group, the Least Developed Countries Group, and most recently Maldives, Fiji and Namibia — a total of 60 WTO members.