CUTS International Washington DC Center
Monthly Brief #43, October 2021
Don’t Let the Waiver Go in Vain: Indo-U.S. Collaboration on the WTO TRIPs Waiver Proposal
An open letter to G20 governments highlights the catastrophic state of vaccine inequity - compared to only 4 doses per 100 people in low income countries, for every 100 people in high-income countries, 133 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. While a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) waiver at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is not a panacea, it can be an important step towards promoting greater vaccine manufacturing and distribution.
At the recent G20 Leaders’ Summit in Rome, the lofty goal of vaccinating at least 40 percent of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 was reiterated. At the Quad Summit, India and the U.S., along with Japan and Australia, committed to supply at least one billion doses by the end of 2022.
However, a sustained endeavour to walk these talks has been missing. Governments, innovators and manufacturers of the leading vaccines are side stepping actual deliverables. They cite the limited utility of a waiver, and challenges to transfer of technology and voluntary access to trade secrets. Which door will open first?
India, with its excellent manufacturing capacity and its status as the world’s pharmacy, and the U.S. as an innovation powerhouse, especially in vaccine technology, must work together at every platform.
One of the best ways forward is to bring the TRIPs waiver at the WTO to fruition. It has been over a year since the waiver proposal was first brought to the WTO. The suspension of legal obligations under TRIPs will permit novel vaccine related technologies such as mRNA vaccine technology to be shared without legal and financial constraints.
The U.S. has already pledged its support for the TRIPs waiver. It must now convince its allies such as the European Union to support the waiver at the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12). Simultaneously, the WHO COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) must be rejuvenated.
At the same time, in line with India’s leadership as one of the main proponents of the WTO TRIPs waiver, it must also take the lead by transferring its indigenous Covaxin technology to pharmaceutical companies.
Combined with concerted efforts towards greater technology transfer and supply chain resilience, a TRIPs waiver can be an important tool to promote vaccine production and equitable distribution. A pandemic response outcome at MC12, with the TRIPs waiver at its centre, will be important to combat the pandemic. India and the U.S. must cooperate to expedite text-based negotiations on the waiver proposal at the WTO.
Pradeep S. Mehta

P.S.: What is to be expected from COP-26? Will Glasgow be a lifeguard to the globe?

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Trade ministers must pull their weight on climate action
Tackling the intersection of trade and climate policies is central to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, but ensuring that growing trade tensions do not thwart progress urgently requires dialogue and international cooperation at the highest political level. Trade issues are directly relevant to climate action in many ways. Achieving the Paris climate goals requires a significant change in the organisation of global value chains and in the composition and geography of trade flows.

India, Israel to start talks on Free Trade Agreement
India and Israel agreed to resume talks on a free trade agreement from November, with the aim of signing a deal by mid 2022. Ties between the two countries have grown closer in the seven years since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in power, and a number of strategic, military and technology partnerships have been formed during that time. Free trade talks were announced after the countries' foreign ministers met in Jerusalem, where they also agreed on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates and expanded cooperation in water and agriculture, the countries said in a statement.
U.S. pips China as India’s largest trading partner
The U.S. has overtaken China as India’s largest trading partner, thanks to faster growth during the first nine months of 2021. Data collated by the commerce department showed that during January-September, two-way trade between India and the U.S. jumped 50% to $28 billion. A comparatively slower 46% rise with China saw bilateral trade increase to $25.3 billion.
China’s bid to ‘weaponise trade’ crumbles as it turns to Australia for cotton, copper despite import ban
China has imported US$30 million worth of Australian copper concentrate and increased purchases of cotton from the country amid international sanctions (Paywall) over Xinjiang, despite unofficially banning the products in November last year, Chinese trade data shows. Chinese importers also snapped up the lion’s share of Australia’s bumper wheat harvest for the 2021-22 season, making it the country’s largest buyer just as global supplies fall.


U.S. President Joe Biden unveils plan to invest $555 billion on green energy
President Joe Biden announced a framework to invest $555 billion in funding on clean energy programs he thinks can win approval from Congress, with investments in renewable power, electric vehicles and resilience. The framework is also set to provide Biden fresh evidence the U.S. can deliver on its Paris Agreement pledge to at least halve greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. Tax credits and decarbonisation programmes in the climate measure would complement coming regulations clamping down on greenhouse gases from automobiles, oil wells and power plants - a combination that promises to magnify emissions cuts.

The inside story of India’s coal and power crises
Unprecedented. Unpredictable. A “perfect storm” of high demands, high global prices, and extended monsoons. All of these are common descriptors of how India came to have just four days of coal supplies left at power plants. These are all convenient but incomplete explanations. More than plain bad luck coming together in a perfect storm or any single issue, there was a wide gap in planning, coordination, and risk-taking. This problem also didn’t happen overnight or even in a month or two – it was many months in the making.
U.S.-India Insight: U.S.-India Climate Cooperation: Help Where It Hurts
The India-focused policy community is largely enthused by the recent bilateral and quadrilateral meetings in Washington, DC. Climate change cooperation figured prominently in these talks, notably India’s robust target of achieving 450 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy in its energy mix by 2030. Yet, India’s interim target of 175 GW by the end of 2022 is likely an impossible target. Pressing for stronger commitments from the central government is insufficient. The United States and global partners need to expand state-level engagements with India - with particular attention to those states that are furthest from meeting their individual renewable energy targets.

India-U.S. partnership underscores joint commitment to taking decisive climate action: Kerry
During his recent trip to India last month, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change John Kerry said that he along with his Indian counterpart Bhupendra Yadav launched the climate action and finance mobilisation dialogue through which the two countries will work to chart pathways to decarbonise energy intensive sectors of the economy. It will also mobilise the billions of dollars necessary to transition to clean technologies and fuels, and to construct a resilient infrastructure that is needed for the extreme weather being experienced now.


The Quad: Reflections on the first in-person summit
The leaders of the Quad countries (Australia, India, Japan and the United States) held their first in-person meeting in Washington DC on September 24. Around six months after they met virtually, the Quad leaders’ in-person summit meeting was high on both optics and deliverables. There was forward movement on the Quad Vaccine Initiative. New programmes such as a Quad Infrastructure Partnership, Quad Fellowship and the Quad Principles on Technology Design, Development, Governance, and Use were launched. Overall, these will further enhance Quad cooperation in controlling the pandemic, the climate crisis, and on critical and emerging technologies. This edition of CUTS Occasional News Wrap (ONW) reflects on the Quad summit, covering diverse opinions from various experts.

China widens presence in Indian Ocean through massive inroads in Djibouti
Increasing naval bases of China in Africa is a part of their long-term strategic plan to dominate the Indo-Pacific region. The countries in Africa should be wary of this plan and should not fall into the debt trap (Paywall) diplomacy of China. With its investment in Djibouti as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing holds the majority portion of Djibouti’s debt, which is over 70 percent of the African country’s GDP. African countries should learn from the example of Sri Lanka, where they had to eventually lease the Hambantota Port to China for 99 years,” according to Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International which has significant presence in Africa.

India, the Quad, and the Future of Outer Space
Now, for the first time, the Quad has included outer space matters within the scope of its projects - a particularly encouraging sign for the future of private enterprise - dominated civilian and commercial space ventures. To bolster its own private space sector, India should look to further engage with the other Quad countries on outer space. India needs partners in this domain. Considering the long-term gestation period of most space-related projects, India would do well to partner with reliable space faring countries that have a dependable track record cultivating strong private players in space.

U.S. President Biden urged not to impose CAATSA sanctions on India
In a letter to Biden, Senators Mark Warner of the Democratic Party and John Cornyn of the Republican Party urged the president to grant a national interest waiver to India as provided under Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) as this is in America's national security interest. "We strongly encourage you to grant a CAATSA waiver to India for its planned purchase of the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system. In cases where granting a waiver would advance the national security interests of the U.S., this waiver authority, as written into the law by Congress, allows the President additional discretion in applying sanctions," the two Senators wrote.


India among select few countries developing hypersonic missiles: U.S. Congressional report
India is among the select few countries which are developing hypersonic weapons, an independent Congressional report has said, amidst a media report which claimed that China recently tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile which circled the globe before missing its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught U.S. intelligence by surprise. The independent Congressional Research Service (CRS), in a latest report this week, said that although the U.S., Russia and China possess the most advanced hypersonic weapons programmes, a number of other countries, including Australia, India, France, Germany and Japan, are also developing hypersonic weapons technology.

Report on strengthening Australia-India tech and innovation collaboration released
The Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce (IACC) on Friday, October 29, released a report, Recommendations to build stronger ties between India & Australia in technology and innovation - a call to action. The report, drafted with support from the KPMG, identifies opportunities available to the two countries in the digital age. It identifies six key sectors - agri tech, e-commerce and retail tech, edtech, fintech, health tech and R&D and innovation.

Cyber resilience in the Quad
The recent Quad Leaders' Summit set cybersecurity cooperation as a priority for the four countries. The Quad leaders also announced the creation of a Senior Cyber Group, a joint effort on establishing cyber standards and security. This builds on an already-robust collaboration, especially since Quad members have shared cyber threat perceptions.
Need to focus on developing dual-use technologies: Rajnath Singh
India needs to focus on developing dual-use technologies for both military and civilian agencies and special attention should be paid to research and development for manufacturing state-of-the-art defence platforms, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday, October 04. He said the demand for military equipment is increasing around the world in view of global security concerns, border disputes and developments in the maritime sphere, and India must focus to enhance its domestic defence industry.


Indian American scientist gets Lifetime Achievement Award
Chief Executive of General Atomics Global Corporation Dr. Vivek Lall received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ritossa Family Summits in Dubai recently for his "outstanding vision, dedication and success" in bolstering India-U.S. ties. Chairman of the Ritossa Family Office, headquartered in Dubai, Sir Antony Ritossa presented the award to Dr. Lall. The award ceremony was held in the presence of the United Arab Emirates's State Foreign Trade Minister Dr. Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi.

Developments in Afghanistan will have very, very significant consequences: Jaishankar
India was not taken into confidence on various aspects of the Doha deal inked between the U.S. and the Taliban last year and the latest developments in Afghanistan will have "very, very significant consequences" for the region and beyond. The key concerns for India at this juncture included whether Afghanistan will have an inclusive government and that Afghan soil is not used for terrorism against other states and the rest of the world, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said while speaking virtually at the annual leadership summit of the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) on Thursday, September 30.

Important for India to focus on green investment post-pandemic: IMF
As we move towards the recovery, it is also important to focus on public investment, particularly on green investment, so that the recovery can be inclusive and green, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Fiscal Affairs Department Deputy Director Paolo Mauro told reporters during a news conference in Washington. He said India's debt is at the ratio of about 90 per cent, and it is important to give a signal that there is a medium-term fiscal framework in place that ensures investors that the debt ratio will decline in the medium term.
India to play important roles in ending this pandemic: USAID administrator
What is clear now, that the export ban on vaccine manufacturing is going to be lifted. India is going to play one of the most important roles on planet earth in bringing this pandemic to an end. Because of its innovation, because of the investments that have been made over a long period of time in expanding vaccine manufacturing capacity, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, Samantha Power said.