Sitemap

By Brajendra Navnit, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to WTO

Science Has Delivered, Will The WTO Deliver?

TRIPS waiver proposal from India, South Africa and other members

A proposal by India, South Africa and eight other countries calls on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to exempt member countries from enforcing some patents, and other Intellectual Property (IP) rights under the organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, known as TRIPS, for a limited period of time. It is to ensure that IPRs do not restrict the rapid scaling- up of manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. While a few members have raised concerns about the proposal, a large proportion of the WTO membership supports the proposal. It has also received the backing of various international organizations, multilateral agencies and global civil society.

Unprecedented times call for unorthodox measures. We saw this in the efficacy of strict lockdowns for a limited period, as a policy intervention, in curtailing the spread of the pandemic. International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its October 2020 edition of World Economic Outlook states “ …However, the risk of worse growth outcomes than projected remains sizable. If the virus resurges, progress on treatments and vaccines is slower than anticipated, or countries’ access to them remains unequal, economic activity could be lower than expected, with renewed social distancing and tighter lockdowns”. The situation appears to be grimmer than predicted, we have already lost 7% of economic output from the baseline scenario projected in 2019. It translates to a loss of more than USD 6 trillion of global GDP. Even a 1% improvement in global GDP from the baseline scenario will add more than USD 800 billion in global output, offsetting the loss certainly of a much lower order to a sector of economy on account of the Waiver.

Merely a signal to ensure timely and affordable access to vaccines and treatments will work as a big confidence booster for demand revival in the economy. With the emergence of successful vaccines, there appears to be some hope on the horizon. But how will these be made accessible and affordable to global population? The fundamental question is whether there will be enough of Covid-19 vaccines to go around. As things stand, even the most optimistic scenarios today cannot assure access to Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics for the majority of the population, in rich as well as poor countries, by the end of 2021. All the members of the WTO have agreed on one account that there is an urgent need to scale-up the manufacturing capacity for vaccines and therapeutics to meet the massive global needs. The TRIPS Waiver Proposal seeks to fulfil this need by ensuring that IP barriers do not come in the way of such scaling up of manufacturing capacity.

Why existing flexibilities under the TRIPS Agreement are not enough?

The existing flexibilities under the TRIPS Agreement are not adequate as these were not designed keeping pandemics in mind. Compulsory licenses are issued on a country by country, case by case and product by product basis, where every jurisdiction with an IP regime would have to issue separate compulsory licenses, practically making collaboration among countries extremely onerous. While we encourage the use of TRIPS flexibilities, the same are time-consuming and cumbersome to implement. Hence, only their use cannot ensure the timely access of affordable vaccines and treatments. Similarly, we have not seen a very encouraging progress on WHO’s Covid19-Technology Access Pool or the C-TAP initiative, which encourages voluntary contribution of IP, technology and data to support the global sharing and scale-up of the manufacturing of COVID- 19 medical products. Voluntary Licenses, even where they exist, are shrouded in secrecy. Their terms and conditions are not transparent. Their scope is limited to specific amounts or for a limited subset of countries, thereby encouraging nationalism rather than true international collaboration.

Why is there a need to go beyond existing global cooperation initiatives?

Global cooperation initiatives such as the COVAX Mechanism and the ACT-Accelerator are inadequate to meet the massive global needs of 7.8 billion people. The ACT-A initiative aims to procure 2 billion doses of vaccines by the end of next year and distribute them fairly around the world. With a two-dose regime, however, this will only cover 1 billion people. That means that even if ACT-A is fully financed and successful, which is not the case presently, there would not be enough vaccines for the majority of the global population.

Past experience

During the initial few months of the current pandemic, we have seen that shelves were emptied by those who had access to masks, PPEs, sanitizers, gloves and other essential Covid-19 items even without their immediate need. The same should not happen to vaccines. Eventually, the world was able to ramp up manufacturing of Covid-19 essentials as there were no IP barriers hindering that. At present, we need the same pooling of IP rights and know-how for scaling up the manufacturing of vaccines and treatments, which unfortunately has not been forthcoming, necessitating the need for the Waiver.

It is the pandemic – an extraordinary, once in a lifetime event – that has mobilized the collaboration of multiple stakeholders. It is knowledge and skills held by scientists, researchers, public health experts and universities that have enabled the cross-country collaborations and enormous public funding that has facilitated the development of vaccines in record time – and not alone IP!

Way forward

The TRIPS waiver proposal is a targeted and proportionate response to the exceptional public health emergency that the world faces today. Such a Waiver is well-within the provisions of Article IX of the Marrakesh Agreement which established the WTO. It can help in ensuring that human lives are not lost for want of a timely and affordable access to vaccines. The adoption of the Waiver will also re-establish WTO’s credibility and show that multilateral trading system continues to be relevant and can deliver in times of a crisis. Now is the time for WTO members to act and adopt the Waiver to save lives and help in getting the economy back on the revival path quickly.

While making the vaccines available was a test of science, making them accessible and affordable is going to be a test of humanity. History should remember us for the “AAA rating” i.e. for Availability, Accessibility and Affordability of Covid19 vaccines and treatments and not for a single “A rating” for Availability only. Our future generations deserve nothing less.

Related Articles

Cooperation With IMF Extremely Important For Maintaining Financial Stability

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic talked today with new head of the International Monetary Fund Office in Belgrade Yulia Ustyugova about the upcoming steps within...

H.E. Sanjiv Kohli, New Ambassador of India to Serbia

As a qualified electronics engineer, Sanjiv Kohli served in industry and worked for Indian Railways prior to joining the Indian Foreign Service in 1988. During...

75th Year Of India’s Independence Celebrated

Newly-appointed Ambassador of India in Serbia H.E. Sanjiv Kohli hoisted the flag of India at the Embassy to mark the 75th year of India‘s...

Farewell Visit Of The IMF Resident Representative In Serbia Sebastian Sosa

Minister of Finance Sinisa Mali received today in a farewell visit Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Serbia Sebastian Sosa. Mali expressed...

Sebastian Sosa, IMF Resident Representative in Serbia

Reforms Will Keep Labour at Home

Safeguarding macroeconomic and financial stability remains a precondition for sustainable growth. But more is needed to secure a strong economy and better prospects for...

World Central Kitchen Kicks Off Across Seven States In India

The non-profit organisation links chefs with Government hospital to provide free, healthy meals for the medical fraternity, under pressure from the pandemic The influential World...

Here Are The 10 Biggest Economies In The World — Before The Pandemic vs. Now

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken up the ranking of the world’s largest economies after sending many countries into their worst economic recessions in recent...

Prime Minister Modi’s Address At The Leaders’ Summit On Climate 2021

Your Excellency President Biden,Distinguished colleagues,My fellow Citizens of this Planet, Namaskar!I would like to thank President Biden for taking this initiative.Humanity is battling a global...

More...

Russia Suspends Its Mission To NATO

The Kremlin is also closing the alliance's liaison mission in Moscow. The announcement comes after NATO expelled eight members of the Russian mission to...

5 Things You Should Know About Europe’s Energy Crisis

Europeans are bracing themselves for what could be a long, cold and expensive winter. Rising energy costs are likely to push up fuel bills...

EIB And EBRD To Deepen Cooperation Outside EU: Presidents Hoyer And Renaud-Basso Sign Framework Agreement

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have agreed to deepen their cooperation, aiming to improve the...

Comment by Zoran Panović

Legacy And Disquiet

By calling on the presidents of Turkey, Serbia and Croatia – Messrs Erdoğan, Vučić and Milanović – Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik (seemingly narrow-minded,...

News

Russia Suspends Its Mission To NATO

The Kremlin is also closing the alliance's liaison mission in Moscow. The announcement comes after NATO expelled eight members...

Serbian Government, Oracle Sign Memorandum Of Understanding

At the pavilion of the Republic of Serbia, at this year's World EXPO 2020 held in Dubai, a Memorandum...

Bloomberg Adria To Start Operating In 2022

Bloomberg Media and Mtel Swiss – a broadcaster majority-owned by Telekom Srbija - today announced an agreement to create...

Launch Of The Market Access Platform By The CCIS And The WB6 CIF

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Serbia and the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum (WB6...

5 Things You Should Know About Europe’s Energy Crisis

Europeans are bracing themselves for what could be a long, cold and expensive winter. Rising energy costs are likely...

Russia Suspends Its Mission To NATO

The Kremlin is also closing the alliance's liaison mission in Moscow. The announcement comes after NATO expelled eight members...

Serbian Government, Oracle Sign Memorandum Of Understanding

At the pavilion of the Republic of Serbia, at this year's World EXPO 2020 held in Dubai, a Memorandum...

Bloomberg Adria To Start Operating In 2022

Bloomberg Media and Mtel Swiss – a broadcaster majority-owned by Telekom Srbija - today announced an agreement to create...

5 Things You Should Know About Europe’s Energy Crisis

Europeans are bracing themselves for what could be a long, cold and expensive winter. Rising energy costs are likely...

UNICEF Launches From My Angle Campaign To Support The Mental Health Of Young People

UNICEF Serbia has launched an awareness raising campaign – From My Angle - dedicated to the mental health of...

Russia Suspends Its Mission To NATO

The Kremlin is also closing the alliance's liaison mission in Moscow. The announcement comes after NATO expelled eight members...

Serbian Government, Oracle Sign Memorandum Of Understanding

At the pavilion of the Republic of Serbia, at this year's World EXPO 2020 held in Dubai, a Memorandum...

Bloomberg Adria To Start Operating In 2022

Bloomberg Media and Mtel Swiss – a broadcaster majority-owned by Telekom Srbija - today announced an agreement to create...

5 Things You Should Know About Europe’s Energy Crisis

Europeans are bracing themselves for what could be a long, cold and expensive winter. Rising energy costs are likely...

UNICEF Launches From My Angle Campaign To Support The Mental Health Of Young People

UNICEF Serbia has launched an awareness raising campaign – From My Angle - dedicated to the mental health of...