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COVID-19 crisis: 62 WTO members say TRIPS waiver proposal to be amended

In a joint statement on May 17, the co-sponsors said that they wanted to conclude the current phase of discussion on waiver as soon as possible given the very serious Covid-19 situation

twitter-logoJoe C Mathew | May 18, 2021 | Updated 17:44 IST
COVID-19 crisis: 62 WTO members say TRIPS waiver proposal to be amended
The co-sponsors said that they wanted to conclude the current phase of discussion on waiver

Sixty two member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), who are co-sponsors of the Covid-19 related TRIPS waiver proposal initially proposed by India and South Africa, have informed that current proposal will be amended to further clarify the scope of the proposed waiver and the period during which the waiver will apply.

In a joint statement on May 17, the co-sponsors said that they wanted to conclude the current phase of discussion on waiver as soon as possible given the very serious Covid-19 situation. "The co-sponsors call on all delegations who have not yet indicated that they will join text-based discussions, to do so as soon as possible. Co-sponsors will soon issue an amended version of their waiver proposal with the objective of moving text-based discussions forward", they stated.

The co-sponsors welcomed the US Trade Representative's statement that the United States is supportive and willing to actively participate in text-based discussions. "It is encouraging that various other delegations who had been opposing text-based discussions have undertaken to do the same. This is a significant step forward in our collective responsibility to address the scourge of COVID-19 and to ensure that we end the pandemic everywhere for everyone. Universal access to immunisation, treatments, testing and other products to control the pandemic should be our priority. No one should be left behind", the statement said.

The proposal co-sponsored by the 62 WTO members talks about a temporary waiver from certain TRIPS obligations for the prevention, containment and treatment of Covid-19. In  addition to WTO members, the initiative has also received worldwide support, from international organizations, civil society organisations, global leaders including former presidents, prime ministers, Nobel laureates, parliamentarians across the globe including from those members who have not yet agreed on textual discussions, the co-sponsors said.

Stating that continuous mutations and emergence of new variants of SARS-COV-2 highlight the significant uncertainties and complexities of controlling SARS-COV-2 and underscore the urgency of this proposal, they cautioned that a failure to respond in a timely manner on the waiver proposal undermines the legitimacy and credibility of WTO.

They confirmed that they will engage in the waiver discussion process with the necessary flexibility to ensure swift outcomes. "Any outcome in these negotiations must respect the wishes and common interests of the majority of Members of the WTO. We call on all WTO members to come together in meaningful global solidarity, to prioritise and expedite text-based negotiations, to reach an early conclusion that will effectively address intellectual property barriers and contribute to the scaling up and diversification of manufacturing and supply of Covid-19 products for the prevention, containment and treatment of Covid-19", the joint statement said.

In addition to India and South Africa, 62 members include Kenya, Eswatini, Mozambique, Pakistan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, the African Group, the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, Maldives, Fiji and Namibia.

Also read: China supports TRIPS waiver on COVID-19 vaccines proposed by India, South Africa

Also read: Piyush Goyal, US Trade Representative discuss COVID-19 vaccine production, TRIPS waiver

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