TRIPS waiver caught in WTO labyrinth
Down To Earth|July 16, 2021
There is little change in the position of countries opposing the waiver, and the India-South Africa proposal is being made to go through the hoops at WTO
LATHA JISHNU

IF ONE went merely by what the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) claimed in mid-June, the waiver on the intellectual property rights (trips) at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to cope with the dire covid-19 situation was very nearly in the bag. The likelihood of the waiver came through after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a video-linked address to a G7 summit in the UK. Apparently, there was “widespread support” among the G7 when Modi sought support for the India-South Africa proposal at WTO. Or, so said the official spokesperson.

Now the G7 comprises the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the US, the very countries which are stoutly opposed to the proposal, three of these belonging to the European Union that has taken a rigid stance against the waiver. The only exception is the US which says it favors suspension of IP rights but has remained noticeably silent on how far it is willing to go.

The waiver proposal, first made at WTO in October 2020 and amended in May this year, seeks a limited suspension of trips to allow the production of life-saving therapies, vaccines, and equipment to meet the challenge of covid-19 without the fear of any reprisals from the owners of IP. If these countries were supporting the waiver it MEAnt the proposal would sail through at WTO. Sadly, it was just a clever spin put out by MEA and intended for Modi’s domestic constituency. The fact is that the G7 continues to stick to its guns on the issue as the official communiqué released subsequently by this group of rich nations revealed. There was no mention of the India- South Africa proposal at all.

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