The agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) member countries to move forward on the text-based negotiations of the proposal by India and South Africa for a temporary waiver from some provisions of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) indicated their in-principle acceptance of the objectives of the proposal, said union commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan.

The member nations expect to come to an agreed text and subsequent implementation of the waiver on intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines and medical supplies by July-end, Wadhawan said during a virtual press conference on Thursday.

“Countries broadly in principle accept the objective behind that waiver proposal and now to give effect to that objective, they will have text-based negotiations,” Wadhawan said, adding that these were positive developments. During a Trips Council Meeting on June 8-9 in Geneva, India had said it would like negotiations to begin by mid-June, according to an official statement.

In October 2020, India and South Africa had submitted the first proposal suggesting a waiver for all WTO members on the implementation of provisions of the Trips Agreement related to the prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19. Later, in May this year, a revised proposal was submitted by 62 co-sponsors, including India, South Africa, and Indonesia. The agreement on Trips came into effect in 1995 covering copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets.

Foreign Trade Policy

India could expect a new foreign trade policy (FTP) soon as the government is extensively engaged in stakeholder consultations but as of now, the existing policy stands extended till September, Wadhawan said. The decision to extend the current policy was taken to ensure continuity during the pandemic and to avoid the need for adjustments to a new policy.

However, with changes and improvement to the policy, including an extension of compliances, it could be viewed as a new policy, he said. “In a sense, the ongoing FTP becomes a new policy as you keep modifying it, improving it, adjusting it from time to time, depending on the circumstances,” Wadhawan said.

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