NEW DELHI: The US, European Union, the UK and Switzerland, along with Brazil, have not supported India and South Africa’s proposal at the World Trade Organisation for a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights to address drug and other issues related to Covid-19.
At the same time, several developing countries, including China, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia and Turkey, have backed the proposal, which is still on the table but needs to be ratified by the WTO Trips Council by the end of the year. It was also supported by the World Health Organisation. “WHO welcomes South Africa’s and India’s recent proposal to WTO to ease international & intellectual property agreements on Covid-19 vaccines, treatments & tests in order to make the tools available to all who need them at an affordable cost,” the agency tweeted.
India and South Africa, backed by Kenya, had suggested that the proposal should be recommended “as early as possible” to the General Council but the developed countries questioned its pertinence and usefulness.
As indicated in the proposals the waiver would last for as many years as agreed from the decision of the General Council and would remain in place until widespread vaccination is in place globally, and the majority of the world’s population had developed immunity. South Africa urged the Trips Council that all WTO members should work together to ensure that patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of undisclosed information do not create barriers to the timely access to affordable medical products essential to combat Covid-19.
India said that as new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns about how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand. “Critical shortages in medical products have also put at grave risk patients suffering from other communicable and non-communicable diseases,” the Indian delegation said. In addition, India indicated that many countries may face institutional and legal difficulties when using flexibilities available under the TRIPS Agreement.