WTO: WTO members still differ on patent waiver project

NEW DELHI: With less than 10 days to go before the meeting of ministers from WTO countries in Geneva, negotiators have yet to firm up proposals on the TRIPS waiver to address vaccine and drug shortages during pandemics.
Divergences persist on the scope of the derogation as well as on whether the reference to adequate remuneration for rightsholders should be deleted. Under certain provisions such as compulsory licensing, allowing countries to waive patent rights in cases of emergency, the patent holder is entitled to certain payments.
India is among the countries not happy with what is on the table, with officials making it clear they would like the waiver to go beyond patents and scope to include vaccines, drugs, therapies and devices. Furthermore, they made it clear that technology transfer is an essential part of the whole vaccine manufacturing program so that it can be made available to parts of the world, where access has been limited.
India and South Africa had jointly submitted the patent waiver plan in October 2020 when Covid vaccines were not available, but developed countries such as US, EU, UK United and Switzerland have moved slowly on the issue.
Although some members, including South Africa, India, the United States and the EU, have drawn up a draft on the issue, New Delhi sees it as a compromise agreement that does not fully meet its aspirations. . At an informal meeting of the TRIPS Council in Geneva on Tuesday, some of the members suggested there should be a clarification on the relationship between the proposed waiver and the existing flexibility available under the TRIPS Agreement.
The TRIPS waiver and fisheries subsidies are seen as two areas where a possible agreement is on the cards at this month’s meeting.

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