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India and SA ask WTO to waive rules to aid Covid-19 drug production

Saying that developing nations are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
The two nations believe that intellectual property rights could be a barrier to the provision of affordable medicine. Image: Andrey Rudakov, Bloomberg

India and South Africa want the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive intellectual property rules to make it easier for developing countries to produce or import Covid-19 drugs, a letter to the WTO shows.

In their letter dated October 2 the two countries call on the global trade body to waive parts of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips), which governs patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property rules globally.

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“As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [over] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at [an] affordable price to meet global demand,” the letter posted on the Geneva-based WTO’s website says.

The two countries say that developing nations are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and that intellectual property rights, including patents, could be a barrier to the provision of affordable medicine.

The letter asks that the WTO’s Council for Trips recommends a waiver to the General Council, the WTO’s top decision-making body in Geneva, “as early as possible”.

It does not say how much support India and South Africa have from other countries.

A draft General Council decision text submitted with the letter says the waiver should last an as yet unspecified number of years and be reviewed annually.

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