Waiting for members to start talks on TRIPS waiver, tech transfer: WTO


The is waiting for member countries to sit across the table and negotiate an outcome on the issues of technology transfer and the proposal of India and South Africa for temporary waiver of certain provisions from TRIPS agreement to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, its chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on Wednesday.

The director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said the pronouncement by the US about the waiver and also by New Zealand and the willingness of European Union (EU) to come to the table, gives a fillip to the effort to try to bring countries to table and talk.

In October 2020, India and South Africa submitted a proposal suggesting a waiver for all members on the implementation of certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19.

The agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS came into effect in January 1995. It is a multilateral agreement on intellectual property (IP) rights such as copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets.

On technology transfer andand IP waiver issue, “we are waiting for our members to come to the table and negotiate a good outcome”, she said at WEF’s Global Trade Outlook session.

However, she added that the proposed TRIPS agreement waiver was just one aspect of making COVID-19 vaccine access equitable.

The other aspects on which countries have to look include export and import restrictions and prohibitions as it inhibits the supply chain; and increasing production by using sites which are not used now.

So far, she said countries are just reading statements in a formal setting of TRIPS council and they have not sat across the table.

“So, hopefully, we would do that and we would come out with a pragmatic arrangement that is satisfactory to all members… So, these three aspects are needed for us to really get vaccines to people,” Okonjo-Iweala said, expressing hope that members will start talks quickly.

The director-general also praised India for exporting vaccines to other countries.

About the 12th ministerial conference, she said it is critical that the has some deliverables in that meeting.

There is a clear message from certain members that WTO needs to have some successes this year and “I think no longer can we take 20 years to negotiate outcomes on very important things…We have to focus on having successes”, she said.

Trade ministers of 164-member countries have to focus on some deliverables and those include finalisation of fishery negotiations; trade and health; agriculture and dispute settlement system.

On the dispute settlement system, she said “we need to have some agreement (on this) even if it is a basic understanding of what reforms we want to do to the system”.

“I think without this, the credibility of the WTO in terms of making new rules will be undermined,” she added.

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