World Trade Organization (WTO) members will on June 30 begin talks on the scope and coverage of the waiver of provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement proposed by India and South Africa for Covid-related medicines.
At the informal meeting of the Trips Council on Thursday, it was also decided that other issues such as duration and implementation of the waiver will be discussed at a later stage depending on the first stage of talks, officials said.
Differences remain on how to ensure rapid and equitable access to vaccines and Covid-related medical products for all as the European Union and a few others are still opposing a revised proposal by India and South Africa seeking patent waivers on Covid-related medical products for three years, with a provision to review the duration annually.
“There was agreement on regular Trips Council sessions to push negotiations,” said an official.
The meeting was the first after the WTO members agreed to engage in text-based discussions on the proposal for waiver of intellectual protection rights for Covid medication.
At the Thursday meeting, the US expressed doubts about starting a discussion on the scope of the waiver instead of focusing on common objectives and said some proposals could be very expensive as they unfold over the next 5-10 years.
The discussions on the proposal will continue on July 6, 14 and 20 between which meetings among small groups would be held. The first consultation period will start soon, leading up to the first open-ended session and stock taking meeting on June 30.
The General Council of the WTO will check the progress of the negotiations on July 27-28, instead of July 21-22 as planned earlier, the official said.
EU seeks parity
The European Union, which has backed the use of flexibilities within existing frameworks such as compulsory licences instead of new ones, sought its submission to be treated on a par with the waiver proposal though India and South Africa argued that the two be discussed separately in parallel tracks.
“While the India and South Africa proposal is based on Article 9 of the WTO Agreement, what the EU has made is not a formal proposal. They can’t be treated equally,” said an expert on WTO issues.
South Africa argued that from the legal point of view of the discussions, the waiver proposal and the communication by the EU should be addressed on different tracks.
This article was first published on The Economic Times