The US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai met top vaccine makers to discuss the proposed waivers to some provisions of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement in light of Covid-19. “Earlier today, Ambassador Tai continued her engagement with stakeholders on vaccine production and global health issues. She met virtually with executives from Pfizer and AstraZeneca about increasing global vaccine production and the proposed TRIPS waiver. Tai emphasised her commitment to working with WTO members on a global pandemic response that addresses critical gaps in global vaccine production and distribution,” a USTR spokesperson said in a tweet on Tuesday. The development comes a day after US President Joe Biden said he is determined to help India in its time of need.
On Sunday, the US said it would immediately provide raw materials required for the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines, ventilators, personal protective equipment, oxygen generation, and related supply to help India battle the second wave. Besides, business groups such as US-India Business Council and chief executives of over 40 companies announced a Global Task Force on Pandemic Response: Mobilising for India, to help provide critical medical supplies, vaccines, oxygen and other life-saving assistance. Even as several nations have offered to help India by sending medical supplies, some developed nations, including the US and UK, have continued to oppose the temporary waiver. India and South Africa, along with 57 other WTO members, have co-sponsored a proposal for temporary waiver of certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement, such that more countries get equitable access to vaccines. In the past, India had reiterated that a temporary waiver is not intended to take away protection given to pharma companies and focuses only on Covid-19 vaccines, associated medicines, and cure. The waiver, if adopted, will help nations overcome legal barriers stopping them from coming up with their own vaccines. In a telephonic conversation with Biden on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi informed him about India’s initiative at the WTO, in order to ensure quick and affordable access to vaccines and medicines for developing countries. Meanwhile, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala urged member nations to support India as it continues to battle the second wave of the pandemic. “India unselfishly exported over 40 per cent of her vaccines. Timely for India to get this support,” the WTO DG said in a tweet on Tuesday. She also called upon nations to firm up resolution of the TRIPS waiver request proposed six months ago.