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India among 4 countries ask WTO to extend patent waiver to CD

Four countries, including India and South Africa, have asked the WTO members to extend patent waiver to Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics as the pandemic is still alive and the risk of new variants remains real, an official said.

These four member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) raised the demand in an informal meeting of TRIPS (Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Council in Geneva on Wednesday, the official said.

In June last year, members of the WTO agreed to grant a temporary patent waiver for the manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccines for five years. It was also agreed to start talks on including therapeutics and diagnostics, as proposed by India and South Africa, under the purview of this waiver.

The proponents of the proposal for extension argued that a decision on this was long overdue and should be taken at the General Council (GC) meeting of the WTO in December.

This would also complement and support the work of the WHO (World Health Organization) on a pandemic treaty.

GC is the second highest decision making body of the organisation after the Ministerial Conference (MC). The 13th MC is scheduled in Abu Dhabi in February next year.

“These members (South Africa, India, Indonesia and Brazil) reiterated that the Covid-19 pandemic is still alive, and that the risk of new variants remains real. In their view, the WTO needs to show it is relevant and credible and must rehabilitate itself by providing responses not only to questions of trade, but also of development,” the Geneva-based official said.

They stated that waivers of TRIPS and other agreements could support crisis recovery, also in other areas.

The agreement on 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.

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

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