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India demands TRIPS waiver at WTO meet

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Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said on Monday a raft of steps being considered by the World Trade Organization (WTO) must include a patent waiver proposal submitted by India and South Africa, which would help countries, especially the poor and developing ones, to better fight the pandemic.

Addressing the thematic session in response to the pandemic and TRIPS waiver at the 12th ministerial conference of the WTO, Goyal said, “For India, a response to the pandemic would not be complete without a TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver.”

India and South Africa, and 63 co-sponsors of the waiver proposal, had requested WTO members to adopt their TRIPS waiver proposal for boosting the production of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, “to comprehensively combat the Covid-19 pandemic by enhancing supply and ensuring equitable and affordable access”, Goyal said. However, the discussions, regrettably, hit a deadlock in the TRIPS council, he added.

The minister highlighted that the main elements of the text that is being negotiated as part of the WTO’s response to the pandemic include the TRIPS waiver proposal, food security, facilitating trade during the pandemic, export restrictions, trade measures, transparency and role of the services sector. India has issues in respect of transparency, export restrictions and market openness. Changing the text of the document even slightly would unravel the months-long complex negotiations and will run the risk of failing an outcome which “we are close to achieving”, Goyal said.

“It is of paramount importance for us to commence negotiations on therapeutics and diagnostics. We cannot have a pandemic response which does not deliver an effective and workable outcome on TRIPS, nor can we agree to any pre-shipment notification requirements,” Goyal said.

Ending subsidies to hit Indian fishermen

Any plan to scrap fishery subsidies immediately or within a tight schedule for those nations that are not much into distant water fishing will harm the livelihoods of their fishermen, Indian sources said, indicating their resolve to fight against any such proposal.

Advanced fishing nations, mostly belonging to the developed world, are pushing for the elimination of subsidies under a draft agreement, which is under negotiation. Importantly, the draft talks about only seven years for developing countries to end their subsidies, against 25 years sought by India for those not engaged in distant water fishing.

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