Extensive discussions on the proposal have taken place in the TRIPS Council. Many countries support the proposal, while few key countries, including the European Communities, are still not convinced.
Recently discussing the topic “Equitable Access to Health Care Related to COVID-19”, Ambassador Mohan Kumar made it clear that “we do not want the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to do so. part of the problem, but be part of the solution ”. The prospect included the submission of a TRIPS waiver by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the forthcoming Ministerial Conference.
In October 2020, India and South Africa had submitted a proposal to waive certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19.
Extensive discussions on the proposal have taken place in the TRIPS Council. Many countries support the proposal, while few key countries, including the European Communities, are still not convinced. The United States has shown its positive intention to support, although the scope and extent of such support is still unclear. The issue is said to be one of the most controversial at the WTO Ministerial Conference later this month.
Ambassador Kumar was speaking at the Biennial Flagship Conference on Competition, Regulation and Development organized by CUTS International and the CUTS Institute for Regulation and Competition (CIRC) in partnership with the Organization for Cooperation and Development Institute (OECD), the European University Institute (EUI) and Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The two-day biennial event, which ran from November 16 to 17, was the seventh in the series, and the theme this time is the building blocks of an inclusive and resilient economy.
According to Ambassador Kumar, who was one of India’s Uruguay Round negotiators, the four most important areas for tackling global vaccine inequalities are technology and know-how transfers, incorporating flexibilities TRIPS, supportive competition policies, and adequate financing and manufacturing capacity. .
Ellen ‘t Hoen, Lawyer and Public Health Advocate, Medicine Law and Policy, while criticizing the hoarding of vaccines by high-income countries, stressed the limitation of the TRIPS waiver because it cannot force the transfer of technology. Know-how transfer would be necessary due to the complex nature of vaccines. According to her, since most vaccines were developed using public funds, including upfront contracts, governments should have imposed conditionality on the transfer of know-how to developers in order to scale up manufacturing. vaccines.
Alexey Ivanov, director of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Center, said that to facilitate technology transfer, we need a holistic, coherent and balanced regulatory ecosystem. “At the multilateral level, the addition of a dedicated competition forum would bring the right balance to the ecosystem, which is largely driven by the trilateral initiatives of the World Health Organization (WHO), the WTO and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), ”added Ivanov.
In this regard, Ivanov also pointed out, using a current example from Russia, the failure of the compulsory licensing tool for a COVID-19 drug, where a pandemic of this magnitude was disputed as a valid reason. for such a grant. He added: “Covid vaccines should be treated as public goods.”
Speaking on the importance of competition law and policy in improving access to medicines, Hardin Ratshisusu, deputy commissioner of the South African Competition Commission, highlighted how competition authorities can help control the abuse of intellectual property rights (IPR) by businesses. Since the issues at stake are global in nature, “cooperation between competition authorities is important to tackle global intellectual property-induced monopolies in the pharmaceutical sector,” he added.
Presenting an optimistic scenario, Bernard Hoekman, director of the European University Institute, said that there are enough production vaccines in the world and much of the problem lies in the logistics and management of distribution. International institutions such as the World Bank, WHO and other organizations in crisis with human resources on the ground can play a crucial role in this regard. He also stressed the importance of trade facilitation to tackle vaccine inequalities.
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