India seeks emergency meeting of WTO's General Council to discuss Covid package
India has sought an emergency meeting of the General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) this month in Geneva to deliberate upon the world trade body's proposed response package, including patent waiver proposal, to deal with the pandemic amid rising coronavirus infections globally, an official said.
The General Council is WTO's highest decision-making body in Geneva. It meets regularly to carry out the functions of WTO. It has representatives (usually ambassadors or equivalent) from all member governments and has the authority to act on behalf of the ministerial conference which only meets about every two years.
WTO is a 164-member multilateral body which formulate rules for global exports and imports and adjudicates disputes between two or more than two countries on trade-related issues.
Expressing disappointment over no progress on TRIPs (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver proposal to deal with the pandemic, India has called for including this proposal into WTO's proposed response package.
In October 2020, India and South Africa submitted the first proposal, suggesting a waiver for all WTO members on the implementation of certain provisions of the TRIPs agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19.
In May 2021, a revised proposal was submitted. 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.
"We have sought an emergency meeting of the General Council to discuss the WTO's response package to deal with Covid-19 pandemic including patent waiver proposal. WTO will start its meetings from January 10 and we have suggested convening the meeting immediately," the official said.
According to a UNCTAD Trade and Development report, developing countries will, by 2025, be as much as USD 8 trillion poorer because of the Covid-19 crisis, and the burden of delayed vaccination estimated at USD 2.3 trillion in terms of lost income will be borne mostly by developing countries.