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India's Statement delivered by Shri Brajendra Navnit, Ambassador & PR at the General Council Meeting held on 1 March 2021

General Council Meeting

March 01-02, 2021


Statement by India - Delivered by Brajendra Navnit, Ambassador & PR to the WTO on March 1, 2021


  1. Status report on the considerations by the trips council on the "proposal for a waiver from certain provisions of the trips agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of covid-19" (IP/C/W/669) – Statement by the Chair of the Council for Trips.

Thank you, Chair, for giving us the floor.

  1. We thank the TRIPS Council Chair for her leadership and the status report, which reflects the developments that have taken place since the last report to GC in December 2020. We would also like to thank and welcome all the co-sponsors including Africa group and group of LDCs. The Proposal now reflects the voice of 57 WTO Members with many more supporting from the floor since its introduction in October 2020.
  1. Through the documents mentioned in the Chair’s report, the proponents have answered all the questions posed in various sessions of the TRIPS Council and presented evidences regarding the intellectual property barriers that continue to hinder an effective response to Covid19 pandemic.
  1. In a recent study, it has been estimated that the global economy stands to lose as much as USD 9.2 trillion if the international community fails to ensure developing economy access to COVID-19 vaccines. The study shows that advanced economies even if they vaccinate all of their citizens will remain at risk of a sluggish recovery with a drag on GDP if infection continues to spread unabated in emerging markets.
  1. Chair, 3 months after the emergence of successful vaccines, the global vaccination scenario still looks grim. The UN Secretary General, in his recent press briefing[1] noted that the progress on vaccinations has been wildly uneven and unfair, and that more than 130 countries have not received a single dose.  He warned “If the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire in the global South, it will mutate again and again and that this can prolong the pandemic significantly, enabling the virus to come back to plague the global North.” To slow down the virus's ability to infect new people and mutate further, we need true vaccine internationalism and TRIPS Waiver is an effective and pragmatic way to achieve it.
  2. Chair, on its part, India has supplied 36.37 million vaccine doses to 35 countries and the UN Health workers, as on 1 March, 2021 under its Vaccine Maitri i.e. Vaccine Friendship Initiative. 39 more countries will be supplied in the coming days ranging from Europe, North America, Latin America, and Caribbean to Africa, SE Asia and the Pacific Islands. India has also gifted 200,000 doses for the UN Peacekeepers. The UN Secretary General has stated that India has been a global leader in pandemic response efforts. Despite scarce resources and a population of more than 1.3 billion, we are doing our bit towards equitable delivery of vaccines. If the existing global manufacturing capacity can be used for mass manufacturing by providing legal certainty to manufacturers over use of Covid-related IP, which is the chief objective of the Waiver, then humanity can accelerate the fight to win over the virus.
  1. We often hear some arguments, let me respond to few of the repeated arguments. The delegations that oppose the temporary waiver proposal have argued on one hand that the Waiver, if granted, will not result in augmenting the manufacturing capacity and on the other hand, they argue that the waiver will impact the commercial interests of existing IP holders as lot of manufacturing could come into play without agreement with the IP holders. We would like to understand this dichotomy that if Waiver will not lead to increase in manufacturing capacity, meaning, no new manufacturers will enter into production of Covid products even with the proposed waiver in place, then how will the commercial interests of existing IP holders be impacted? On the other hand, if manufacturing is going to increase significantly and thereby impacting commercial interests of IP right holders, then are we not agreeing that final objective in the present scenario is to increase manufacturing.
  1. Chair, some Members have questioned whether the Waiver is a proportional response to the pandemic. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, almost every country implemented or is still implementing lockdown in some form or other to curtail the spread of Covid. That does not mean that authorities were against the principle of “right to freedom of movement”. Governments worldwide have introduced fiscal packages to the tune of billions of US dollars to help the recovery of ailing economies. That does not mean that they have deviated from their stated objective of fiscal consolidation towards fiscal profligacy. In the same light, the temporary waiver from certain provisions of TRIPS Agreement by following due process does not mean that the co-sponsors are against the principle of Intellectual Property Rights. We should not forget that research and innovation during this period has been spearheaded by massive public funding, expedited regulatory approvals, and global collaboration.  The global community has resorted to exceptional measures in the exceptional circumstances of COVID pandemic, and the Waiver should be seen in similar vein.
  1. Globally, Governments have intervened to suspend air transport and restrict mobility in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Sectors like civil aviation, travel and tourism, hospitality, small businesses including MSMEs continue to be severely impacted by such state interventions. Globally, trade in travel services was down by 68% in third quarter of 2020 as compared to same period in 2019. Trade in transport services also declined by 24% over the same period. These sectors are also important for the global economy, for growth, for employment. Certainly, governments are not against the interest of these sectors. We would like to know that why commercial interests of only few companies are so sacrosanct?  If it is to preserve incentives to innovate, then such commercial loss, to the tune of few tens of billions of USD at the maximum, can always be compensated by further incentives through pooling of public funding and global coordination. On the other hand, one percent improvement in global GDP from the baseline scenario will give US $ 850 billion worth of global output. Therefore, an outcome on the Waiver will not only help in saving valuable human lives but will also give a comforting signal to boost the consumer confidence in economy and will accelerate the recovery of world trade and global GDP.
  1. Let me touch upon one more issue which has been repeatedly flagged by some of the opponents. It is being said that TRIPS waiver proposal would come in the way of COVAX facility. Let me clarify here that temporary waiver of certain provisions of TRIPS agreement is only going to aid in meeting the final objective of COVAX. We understand that COVAX is a demand side initiative. It does not address supply side constraints. If we do not address supply side issues, then we will not be able to increase the production of vaccines. Waiver will help the COVAX mechanism by augmenting the manufacturing capacity globally.
  1. Chair, we cannot continue to engage in endless discussions while millions of lives and livelihoods are lost to the coronavirus pandemic. We need concerted efforts by all WTO Members to ensure that the WTO makes a meaningful contribution to defeat COVID-19 and prove that WTO can indeed deliver in crisis situations. The proponents are ready to engage in good faith and have frank discussions on the text of the Waiver, relating to both its duration and scope, in order to operationalise the waiver in the shortest possible time. Moving to a text-based negotiation may appear to be yielding from the high moral ground of being the sole protectors of IP rights for some members, but not doing so means a willingness to stand by a poor choice, devoid of ground realities and just opposite to what is the need of the hour. We urge the Members to reach consensus on the Waiver Proposal to ramp up production for the cause of truly ensuring fair, equitable and affordable access to Covid19 products in a timely manner. We sincerely hope that the Proposal will reach a common landing zone and not suffer the repeated blocking of text based negotiations.
  1. Thank you, Chair.