“Equitable access to safe and effective vaccines is fundamental to saving lives and livelihoods. Africa must not be left behind. No one is safe until everyone is safe,” the Pope posted on Twitter.
Equitable access to safe and effective vaccines is fundamental to saving lives and livelihoods. Africa must not be… https://t.co/GuwoUA4WXm
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) 1654866300000
The original proposal was to allow waiver of all intellectual property rights (IPR) and give access to technology not just for vaccines, but also drugs and devices to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. But the “compromise” draft circulated to trade ministers offers only a patent waiver for vaccines and seeks to keep several countries out of the ambit of the plan, drawing sharp criticism from civil society groups.
In a statement, the government said that the Indian delegation led by commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal will seek to ensure a fair deal for the country and the developing world.
Ahead of the meeting, India is also unhappy with the text on agriculture, which has flagged the issue of export restrictions, and questioning the need to raise an issue when it is already provided for in WTO agreements. Further, India is seeking a window for using the stocks lying with the FCI for government-to-government sales to countries that are facing a food shortage, something that has not been taken on board.
In addition, the draft text has suggested a work programme, that will lead to negotiations on farm subsidies, which New Delhi is not comfortable with and is demanding that a permanent solution to deal with a breach of the limit for food procurement via the minimum support price kind of schemes needs to be found given that a decision was taken almost nine years ago.
By all accounts there are massive gaps on most issues on the table with the plan to put in place a set of rules on fishing also being trashed, which New Delhi believes will hurt Indian fishermen.
While a deal on fisheries seems to be an uphill task, the proposed response to the pandemic doesn’t address the concerns either. The Pope’s tweet came hours after the WTO released the draft text that trade ministers from 164 member countries will discuss.
In October 2020, India and South Africa had pitched for patent waiver for all the categories, which was being resisted by the developed countries led by the EU, Switzerland, the UK and the US. While India hasn’t officially commented on it, officials accused the developed world of seeking to protect the profits of pharma companies.
The draft has proposed that all “eligible members” which would ideally be those without export capability, can limit the rights of the patent holder to produce a vaccine, without the manufacturer’s consent. Although the proposal is to manufacture predominantly for the domestic market, exports from these eligible countries are not banned.