Scope of TRIPS Waiver decision should not only include vaccines but also therapeutics & diagnostics: SJM
The Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) has written a letter to Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal. The text of this letter is reproduced below.
This has reference to a petition made by India and South Africa in the World Trade Organization, under your able leadership in October last year, seeking exemption from Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), so that vaccines and corona medicines in the world are available to the entire humanity on an affordable basis. Globally, TRIPS mandates countries to honour intellectual property rights. The exemption from TRIPS would mean that companies that have intellectual property rights on vaccines, medicines and medical equipment would be revoked for the period so decided, and many countries of the world, including India, would be able to produce these vaccines, medicines and devices on their own. This demand of India and South Africa got the support of more than 100-member countries of WTO.
As you are aware that the WTO Secretariat is engaging with EU, US, South Africa, and India to find a solution to TRIPS Waiver. However, it is unprecedented that the Secretariat is having textual discussions at the Ministerial level, without the involvement of technical advisors. In any case, we understand, that India is standing up to the pressure of the EU, US and the WTO Secretariat. We call on you to continue the same, to ensure that any outcome of the discussions should result in an effective and useful outcome for access and should expand the flexibilities provided by the TRIPS Agreement. In this regard we wish to bring the following points for your consideration:
Scope of the TRIPS Waiver decision should not only include vaccines but also therapeutics and diagnostics
The Waiver outcome should go beyond the compulsory license (CL) mechanism (Article 31 and 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement which are about patents) and should include trade secret protection under Article 39.3, which is very essential for the generic production of vaccines and COVID19 monoclonal antibodies.
It should cover both patented productions and products with pending patent applications.
Regarding the process of negotiations, we wish to highlight that
The WTO Secretariat, US and EU may stress on secrecy and confidentiality. However, we should also stress the importance for each country to ensure that it is properly advised and supported. Hence secrecy should not impact the national decision-making process of a country, and government may seek advice of experts including those of the Centre of WTO Studies, key civil society organisations, and the academia.
The WTO Secretariat is notorious for its support of US and EU positions and consequently misleading and inaccurate legal analyses and technical input. Further, given that world over, people are waiting for a good outcome, it is absolutely crucial to ensure that the outcome is sound and credible before it is agreed to. India should ensure that the South African Minister shares the same view. India should not agree to any text until it has been fully vetted and endorsed by India’s technical experts.
It is also important for both India and South Africa to inform other key co-sponsors (member countries) on the state of play and take them, in confidence before agreeing to anything. That will enhance the confidence in India and support future alliances in the WTO. Additionally, where there is disagreement from the EU and US, the support of other developing countries will be invaluable.
Any solution to the TRIPS Waiver should make a substantial improvement on the existing flexibilities including with respect to trade secret, to provide material benefit to developing countries supporting the proposal of India and South Africa. India needs the support of other developing countries to maintain our bargaining power at the WTO. Therefore, we need to consider the sensitivities of other developing countries before accepting any solution on the TRIPS waiver
There are disturbing news coming from a section of media that a small group of WTO members deliberating on the TRIPS Waiver, are discussing suggestions to limit the geographical scope of the implementation of the waiver – plans that seek to exclude India and China. It is understood that the US and the EU have, in their own ways favoured a limited application of such a waiver. Some suggestions include restricting the waiver only to African countries, or to exclude India and China among other possibilities. Its obvious that India will not accept any such proposal, however, we have to defeat these proposals.
No doubt, efforts of our scientists, industry, corona warriors and the government, we have been able to address the challenge of the worst pandemic, which continues to haunt a sizable section of humanity. We need to understand that India’s fight for TRIPS waiver is not for our people only, but its for the global humanity, especially the developing and least developed countries. We need to fulfil our responsibility towards humanity to get rid of this pandemic and TRIPS Waiver assumes significant importance for the same.
We at Swadeshi Jagran Manch humbly request you to take note of the developments in this regard, and take the proposal forward in the interest of India and humanity globally..