New Delhi, Jan 21 (PTI) Patent waiver proposal by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization (WTO) provides a useful way forward to confront some critical health-related aspects of the coronavirus pandemic effectively, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said on Friday.

He said that a successful resolution of the TRIPS waiver must, therefore, be at the core of the WTO response to the pandemic.

“TRIPS waiver proposal by India, South Africa supported by more than 100 other developing countries provides a useful way forward to confront some critical health-related aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic effectively. This is both a health and a moral imperative for all of us collectively,” he said.

Goyal was speaking at the virtual informal WTO ministerial gathering organised by Switzerland.

India and South Africa are pushing for a decision on their proposal for a temporary waiver of certain provisions of a WTO agreement on intellectual property rights to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

In October 2020, India and South Africa had submitted the first proposal, suggesting a waiver for all WTO members on the implementation of certain provisions of the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of COVID. In May 2021, a revised proposal was submitted by them.

“Our top most priority should be to address the supply side constraints, including IP barriers, to augment the manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, essential for treatment, prevention and control of the ongoing pandemic,” he added.

He said the WTO member countries should also be careful of attempts at using the pandemic as a veil for securing market access concessions from developing countries.

“Any future outcome should not require developing countries to relinquish their existing trade policy space,” he added.

On fisheries subsidies negotiations, the minister said it is essential that big subsidisers take greater responsibility to reduce their subsidies.

“India is committed to conclude the negotiations, so long as they result in a fair and just agreement that balances current and future fishing needs, preserves space for equitable growth in fishing capacities in future and an effective S&DT (Special and Differential Treatment), without any imbalances,” the minister said.

Twenty-eight members of the WTO attended the informal ministerial meeting, which traditionally takes place on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos. Switzerland chairs the informal WTO meeting.

According to a statement issued by Switzerland, delegations underlined the urgency of strengthening the WTO’s contribution in the fight against the pandemic and the recovery of the global economy.

“The ministers also reiterated their determination to soon conclude the advanced negotiations on fisheries subsidies, which should contribute to ensuring the long-term sustainability of global fisheries,” the statement said.

The meeting was attended by trade ministers from countries, including India, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, European Union, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, South Africa, the UK and the US.

The meeting assumes significance as the 12th ministerial conference, the highest decision making body of the WTO, was postponed for an indefinite period due to an outbreak of a particularly transmissible strain of the COVID virus. This was the second time the event has been postponed due to the pandemic.

The WTO is a 164-member multilateral body, which formulates rules for global exports and imports and adjudicates disputes between two or more than two countries on trade-related issues. PTI RR RAM

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