ARUN SHOURIE URGES FASTER MOVEMENT ON IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES – ARTICULATES INDIA’S VIEWS ON TRIPS AND ACCESS TO MEDICINES AT SYDNEY WTO INFORMAL TRADE MINISTERS’ MEET
Date : 15 Nov 2002
Location : New Delhi
Mr. Arun Shourie, Minister for Disinvestment, Commerce & Industry and Development of North Eastern Region, has urged the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ensure faster progress on Implementation and Special and Differential (S&D) Treatment issues so that positive results on issues of priority to India and other developing countries are achieved by the December deadline and also, to prepare a road map for settling the remaining Implementation Issues immediately thereafter - before the next Ministerial Conference at Cancun. Participating in the Session on Implementation, Special and Differential Treatment and trade-related Technical Assistance on the concluding day of the Informal WTO Trade Ministers’ Meeting hosted by the Government of Australia in Sydney today, Mr. Shourie emphasised that significant progress must be achieved within a tight time-frame in these important areas and stressed that this would be critical for the credibility of the multilateral trading system. He said this in the context of the feeling in many developing countries that progress in areas of interest to them was slow while that in areas like Market Access had been faster. This gap must be bridged. The Minister also made the point that all implementation provisions of the WTO agreements should be made precise, effective and operational as was decided at Doha, rather than simply focussing on conceptual issues.
On Special and Differential Treatment India has submitted three papers - individually or jointly with others – covering as many as 11 S&D proposals relating to Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Technical Barriers to Trade, Import Licensing, Subsidies and Countervailing Measures and Disputes Settlement Understanding. Mr. Shourie suggested that all these proposals be examined and tangible progress be achieved in these areas by the end of this year.
Articulating India’s views on TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and Public Health at a Session on the subject during the Informal Meet earlier in the day, Mr. Shourie said that the Doha Declaration had rightly placed humanitarian issues above commercial considerations and urged expeditious decision on para 6 of the Doha Declaration to address the problems of countries with limited or no manufacturing capacity in the pharmaceutical sector. This would ensure access to essential medicines for their people by enabling them to procure medicines from other sources. While noting that the draft of a possible decision on para 6 circulated by the TRIPS Council earlier this week has several positive features, Mr. Shourie said that further clarification and discussions would be needed on disease and product coverage, assessment of manufacturing capacity and the legal mechanism in order to move towards a solution. He emphasised that the ambit of Article 6 should not be circumscribed. The Article refers to "public health problems" and is not confined to "epidemics" or "infectious disease" as some developed countries were trying to make out. Similarly, not just "kits" but everything that is required to deal with the "public health problem" must be eligible for compulsory licensing. In this context, Mr. Shourie also recalled that the Australian delegate at an NGOs meeting last evening had quoted a statement made by the World Health Organisation (WHO) at the WTO TRIPS Council to the effect that "limited exception under Article 30 is most consistent with the public health principle and this solution will enable the most expeditious response to a public health problem". The European Parliament has also recently adopted an amendment to the European medicines regulations based on this principle to the effect that "Manufacturing shall be allowed if the medicinal product is intended for export to a third country that has issued a compulsory licence for that product, or where a patent is not in force and if there is a request to that effect from the competent public health authorities of that third country". This perspective should be kept in mind while working out a solution, Mr. Shourie said. The new system should not curtail the existing flexibilities available to supplying countries under the TRIPS Agreement, the Minister added.