Travel: Civil society calls for PM’s intervention in WTO vaccine talks

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Civil society groups wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday demanding his intervention in the textual negotiations of the waiver of the agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The letter, whose signatories include the Forum for Medical Ethics Society of Mumbai, the Karnataka Drug Action Forum and the Campaign for Access to Medicines, Diagnostics and Devices in India, asked the Prime Minister to urge the Department of Trade and Industry to “proactively engage” in the negotiations as “the Department’s actions on the proposed TRIPS waiver since the second part of 2021 have been opaque and woefully quiet “.

The letter comes as members such as the UK and Switzerland have added several elements to the text that would limit the flexibilities that the existing TRIPS agreement offers to developing and poor countries. The text is based on a compromise outcome that was reached after talks between India, South Africa, the US and the EU called “Quad”.

“Throughout the Quad process as well as after the tabling of the text, there is no statement or explanation clarifying India’s position on the TRIPS Agreement waiver. proven to be a failure and text-based negotiations provide an opportunity to rectify mistakes,” the civil society organizations said in the letter.

The UK proposed limiting the use of compulsory licensing only to patented vaccines, ingredients and processes. He also wants to limit the application of the waiver to only Covid vaccines, excluding the export of ingredients that may be necessary for the production of vaccines, are certain TRIPS-plus requirements.

Developed countries have also proposed banning the re-export or donation of any unused doses of vaccine to any other eligible members.

“This is a TRIPS-plus proposal and has an impact on South-South cooperation among developing countries, such as pooled procurement to achieve equitable access,” said a source familiar with the proposed changes to the text.

“We believe that engaging in the Quad process cannot be cited as a reason to abdicate responsibility for active engagement in the negotiation. Such a position would be tantamount to accepting the DG’s text containing the TRIPS Plus conditions,” the civil society said in the letter.

Initiative for Health & Equity in Society, Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab, All India Drug Action Network, Sophy K Joseph, Assistant Professor at National Law University (Delhi) and other independent researchers also signed the letter.

They asked the Prime Minister to ensure that the text of the final decision includes therapeutics and diagnostics within the scope of the decision instead of a process to decide on extension at a later date, a user-friendly mechanism to cover products with pending applications at the national level and the international process under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the removal of the requirements of the TRIPS Agreement more such as the disclosure of undisclosed information only in the case of a compulsory license in the context of trade secrets, notification requirements and anti-misappropriation clauses.

“We ask you once again to ensure that the Department of Commerce pursues your appeal for a waiver of the TRIPS Agreement. Your declaration at the Vaccine Summit must be converted into reality and we therefore ask you to provide clear instructions to the Department of Commerce to play a proactive role in text-based negotiations,” they said in the letter.

TRIPS-plus requirements also include repeated government notification, reporting as information becomes available, opening government and local manufacturer actions to scrutiny and pressure from multinational pharmaceutical companies and developed nations.

Kerala MP TN Prathapan has also written to Modi asking him to reject the text as it only contains EU proposals and to remove all TRIPS-plus conditions from the final text.


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