Recent Statements Recent Statements


General Council Meeting

December 16-18, 2020


Statement by India – Delivered by Ambassador & PR to the WTO


Thank you Chair for making cricket popular in the Multilateral Trading System.  We are indeed playing test cricket with our friend Australia during this week.

  1. We thank the co-sponsors for their submission WT/GC/223 entitled COVID-19 AND BEYOND: TRADE AND HEALTH, calling for enhancing cooperation to meet the unprecedented challenge of ensuring availability of essential medical goods, including vaccines. Rules and agreements inked for a normal situation, not keeping in mind a disaster or pandemic situation, will not deliver the desired and effective outcomes. First, let me convey our disappointment on most of the contents of the present proposal.  These proposals are only trying to justify existing rules which were not made to handle a pandemic, and are not accommodative to take on board new measures.
  1. Chair, we are indeed facing turbulent times. The second wave is like Tsunami wave.  Total deaths and confirmed cases are already more than 50% higher than what has been mentioned in the present proposal i.e. this increase has happened in less than a month.  With the emergence of successful vaccines, the real challenge of access and affordability for all has just begun. In the efforts towards an effective response to Covid-19, the ultimate goal is not only to produce a safe and effective vaccine but to make it affordable and accessible. That can happen only after billions of doses are produced affordably and made available to everyone.  In order to achieve this goal, we need to ensure that the intellectual property rights do not restrict rapid scaling up of manufacturing, which alone can deliver vaccines and treatments to 7.8 billion people in the world. This is what our Proposal for Waiver from certain provisions from TRIPS Agreement seeks to achieve. I will go into further detail on this, under Agenda Item 13. Nonetheless, India would have appreciated the co-sponsors support on the Waiver Proposal, which would have matched their words in letter and spirit ‘deliver an effective global response to crisis’ in their submission, through concrete action.
  1. Chair, preventing further disruptions in the supply chains of essential medical goods, highlighted in the submission, is one part of the solution. The submission misses out a very significant element in Covid-19 response. While it talks about facilitating movement of goods including medical products and food supplies, it is silent on facilitating movement of healthcare professionals and liberalising measures on that front. Negotiations on new WTO commitments in terms of movement of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, paramedics, radiologists, surgeons, dentists, physiotherapists etc. by lowering the barriers, eliminating the restrictions in qualification requirements and procedures, cross-border recognition of professional qualifications,  harmonization of entry requirements, easing the entry procedures etc. should also be simultaneously explored, with the aim of concluding such negotiations by MC12.
  1. Like the submission welcomes the COVAX Mechanism, in the same light, it should also have welcomed the WHO COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), an initiative that encourages voluntary contribution of IP, technology and data to support global sharing and scale-up of manufacturing and supply of COVID- 19 medical and pharmaceutical products. We suggest that the co-sponsors take concrete steps in ensuring that the pharmaceutical companies pool their IP and related know-how in the C-TAP pool.
  1. While we encourage the use of TRIPS flexibilities and the voluntary licensing initiatives, we need to recognise that they fall short in meeting the massive demand of COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines and treatments, leave alone in affordable manner as the submission suggests.

Let me give our initial comments on specific proposals:

  1. On eliminating Export Restriction, we would like to share that with the help of this tool, India was able to ensure equitable access to health care products. We supplied these products to more than 150 countries based on mutually assessed needs.  In the absence of this tool, entire supply might have been cornered by the rich and privileged lot.  So, our efforts should not stop at availability but we should sincerely work together on accessibility and affordability aspects also.  Therefore, export restriction will continue to play its role as a policy tool.
  1. On sharing of experiences and cooperation of the WTO with other organizations, we welcome the proposal and willing to discuss it further with the proponents.
  1. Any binding measure on additional transparency will only come in the way of successful integration of trade and health, particularly during a pandemic.
  1. In conclusion, India is willing to engage with proponents on a comprehensive proposal including suggestion given above.
  1. Thank you Chair.