On Monday, January 10, the World Trade Organisation's General Council discussed India's request for a virtual ministerial meeting on the WTO's response to the Coronavirus pandemic. On December 23, 2021, India wrote to the General Council Chair urging for a virtual ministerial meeting on its response to the pandemic, including a proposal to exempt some provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for COVID-19-related vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. The WTO said in a statement that Ambassador Dacio Castillo (Honduras), Chair of the General Council, held a meeting to address the organization's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, news agency PTI reported.
Following the discussion, Castillo stated that he will continue to engage with members on the Indian proposal, emphasising the need of reaching a meaningful conclusion. He also stated that a common WTO response to COVID-19 remained a top priority for the membership. Meanwhile, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director-General of the WTO, has called for immediate action to achieve a comprehensive outcome on pandemic response.
"The pandemic has been going on for more than two years. The Omicron variant's emergence, which led us to postpone our Twelfth Ministerial Conference, reminded us of the dangers of leaving significant areas of the world unvaccinated," Ngozi stated as per PTI. "We need to boost up our efforts at the WTO now to help reach a multilateral agreement on intellectual property and other matters so that we can fully contribute to the worldwide fight against COVID-19," she added. The World Trade Organization is a 164-member multilateral organisation that formulates rules for worldwide exports and imports and settles trade disputes between two or more nations.
India advocated for this proposal to be included in the WTO's proposed response package, expressing regret over the lack of progress on the TRIPS waiver proposal to cope with the pandemic. India and South Africa submitted the first proposal last year in October, proposing a waiver for all WTO members on the implementation of some TRIPS provisions related to the prevention and treatment of deadly COVID-19. It should be mentioned here that TRIPS were implemented in 1995. It is an international agreement on intellectual property (IP) rights such as industrial designs, copyright, patents, and the protection of trade secrets as well as confidential information.