CUTS International Washington DC Center
Monthly Brief #37, April 2021
A Case for Waiving Global IPR Provisions for Vaccines in the Face of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is a classic case in point for implementing provisions similar to the Doha Declaration on TRIPs and Public Health, prioritising public health over commercial interest. The proposal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by India and South Africa for a temporary waiver of the specific provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of the Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) for unhindered supply of vaccines and medical products to fight the pandemic follows a similar notion.
Among other bodies, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has supported the India-South Africa joint proposal for a temporary waiver through a research paper which highlighted the importance of the waiver in ensuring that intellectual property rights (IPRs) are not a barrier in scaling manufacturing and increases access to vaccines and treatments.
The Doha Declaration on TRIPs and Public Health attempts to provide the WTO members the right to formulate their own health policies. By defining public health challenges as a rationale to declare national emergencies, it recognises the impact of patent protection on the price of pharmaceuticals, diagnostic kits and medical equipment while acknowledging the importance of Intellectual Property (IP) protection for the development of new medicines.
On the one hand, it presents the developing world an opportunity to address the inequality of vaccine distribution, with supplies concentrated in a few rich countries, and on the other, it provides them another opportunity to enhance their manufacturing capacities. This, however, is faced with severe opposition from the pharmaceutical industry staunchly opposing it with an argument that large-scale manufacturing may stifle innovation, particularly at a time when it is needed the most.
One of the arguments put forth is that the technology has been developed over a decade and holds the potential to treat cancer and asthma. Therefore, sharing such intellectual property will amount to losing competitive advantage in the long run.
With these perspectives in mind, it is an imperative that a balanced framework is chalked out to provide affordable vaccines to developing countries without infringing on the IPRs of the patent holders. Voluntary licensing is one of them as it provides a way to transfer technology to manufacturers of developing countries in adherence with the local patent law.
In short, bilateral and multilateral partnerships through public-private dialogues are required across a range of pharmaceutical products to address this health crisis along with the authorisation of parallel imports to highlight the morally supportive nature of public health and intellectual property as enshrined in Paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on TRIPs and Public Health.

Pradeep S. Mehta

P.S.: The Biden Administration has assured the world to ramp up their investments in clean energy. Is this initiative too little too late? How long till we reach a point of no return?

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Enhancing India-Australia ties through Maritime Trade
With the India-Australia bilateral Strategic Partnership (concluded in 2009) having been elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) on 04 June 2020, there is an urgent need to build upon the enhanced impetus imparted to the bilateral relationship by the two Prime Ministers.

U.S.-India Insight: Investment Clarity Requires A Negative Approach
Indian officials are again touting the country’s credentials as the friendliest to foreign direct investment (FDI) on Earth. But despite recent liberalization of FDI rules in defense and insurance, this claim rings hollow. India retains foreign equity restrictions in a wide range of sectors. In other sectors, there are onerous regulations targeting foreign firms. And a third, less-discussed set of invisible barriers are the “undefined spaces”—where it is unclear if FDI is allowed.
Sanders, Warren, 8 others tell Joe Biden to go for vaccine IPR waiver
Ten prominent American senators, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have asked U.S. President Joe Biden to accept India and South Africa’s proposal for patent relaxations under the World Trade Organisation’s agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) to enable countries to access drugs and vaccines and combat the impact of Covid-19.
WTO TRIPs Provisions Waiver or No Waiver on COVID-19 Vaccines: Need for Global Solidarity
Since October 2020, the WTO members have been debating a proposal initiated by India and South Africa to waive obligations under the WTO Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement to make COVID-19 technologies, including vaccines, medical devices and protective kits, more and quickly accessible across the world. More than 50 countries have backed this proposal. This edition of ONW highlights the immense importance of the debate and covers the stand of the developing countries, which are requesting for the TRIPs waiver on the COVID-19 vaccines and related medical devices.


Climate Summit: PM Modi, Joe Biden launch India-U.S. clean energy initiative
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden launched the India-U.S. Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership at the Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by the U.S. on Thursday, 22nd April. A joint statement from the U.S. and India said, “The Partnership will proceed along two main tracks: the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership and the Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue, which will build on and subsume a range of existing processes”.

Why India’s oil and gas production is falling
Experts have noted that most of India’s crude oil and natural gas production comes from ageing wells that have become less productive over time. An industry source, who did not wish to be named, noted that “there was no more easy oil and gas” available in India and that producers would have to invest in extracting oil and gas using technologically intensive means from more difficult fields such as ultra deepwater fields.
India indisputably a world leader in deployment of renewable energy: John Kerry
"India's global leadership has been critical across a range of issues including delivering COVID-19 vaccines to the world. I'm particularly grateful that India is getting the job done on climate. You're indisputably a world leader already in the deployment of renewable energy," said U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, on a four-day visit to India. "Your leadership of the International Solar Alliance promises to advance clean energy across India and other dynamic growing economies around the world," he said.

South Asia Women in Energy (SAWIE) Leadership Summit
U.S. India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) in partnership with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) organised the first South Asia Women in Energy (SAWIE) Annual Leadership Summit on April 06, 2021, with the aim of bringing together senior Indian Government officials, U.S. Government officials, business leaders and experts from India, U.S. and South Asia to discuss the role of gender in advancing climate mitigation and environmental sustainability efforts. John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, U.S. Government delivered the Keynote Address during the summit.


Raisina Dialogue: Shortcomings of multilateral system laid bare by pandemic, says Shringla
Delivering remarks at the conclusion of the 6th edition of Raisina Dialogue, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said, “The broader theme of technology and geo technology ran through the dialogue. How technology can be harnessed to help and not hurt is one of the great questions of the day. Algorithms must help but not harm, transparency is required, forward-looking and positive rules that are congruent with good public policy.” “The shortcomings of the current multilateral system laid bare by the pandemic evoked discussion,” he added.

Australia launches grant program to widen Indo-Pacific partnership with India
Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell, has launched the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP) grant program to help support a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific underpinned by the rule of law and respect for sovereignty. "This AUD 1.4 million (INR 8.12 crore) grant program is a practical initiative to advance Australia and India’s shared vision for the Indo-Pacific", O’Farrell said.
U.S. Senate committee approves China strategic competition bill; backs enhanced security ties with India
The United States should reaffirm its commitment to the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership with India and further deepen bilateral defence consultations and collaboration with the country, says the bipartisan bill moved by Senators Jim Risch and Bob Menendez, ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Why India needs ASEAN to succeed in its Indo-Pacific vision
As a global centre of gravity for its economic and demographic potential as well as security challenges, the Indo-Pacific region has fast emerged as the focal point of India’s engagement with its partners around the world – thereby ensuring the security and stability of the region’s maritime domain. This was once again validated earlier this week when India told the UN Security Council that its vision of the Indo-Pacific as a free, open and inclusive region is premised upon the centrality of ASEAN and the common pursuit of prosperity.


There is need for positive regulatory framework for internet companies: Facebook India head
Facebook India Head Ajit Mohan said there is a need for a "forward-looking and positive regulatory framework" for internet companies, and that organisations also need to be more transparent about how they use customer data. The executive noted that India has seen an "explosive shift" in terms of access to the internet and this expanded access gas-driven the emergence of entirely new models, a feat that no other country has managed to do so much in such a short period of time.

Think tanks can link Taiwan, India
To further gather ideas on how to strengthen the security partnership and advance their foreign policy interests, groupings such as the ASEAN-India networks of think tanks and the EU-India Think Tanks Twinning Initiative have been launched. One of the prominent think tanks in Taiwan, the Prospect Foundation, established in 1997, has played a huge role in facilitating Track 1.5 and Track 2 dialogues between Taiwan and its Western counterparts.

India’s geopolitical stake in the Myanmar crisis
A bigger priority for India is not forcing (Paywall) the country back into political isolation and, ultimately, the embrace of China. India and Japan support discrete negotiations with the two sides in Myanmar and have resisted attempts from the United States and Europe to impose full-bodied sanctions against the regime. This tightrope act, however, is becoming increasingly difficult as the body count rises.
Top Republican Senator urges Biden admin to give CAATSA waiver to India
Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA is a tough US law which authorises the administration to impose sanctions on countries that purchase major defence hardware from Russia. Senator Todd Young, a key member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine that if the Joe Biden administration imposes sanctions on India, it would not deter New Delhi's purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia, but would weaken two strategic fronts at a critical time.