Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. (REUTERS)
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. (REUTERS)

Canadian MPs ask Trudeau to drop opposition to TRIPS waiver

They said “we need to eliminate all potential barriers to the timely access of affordable Covid-19 medical products”
By Anirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Amit Chanda
PUBLISHED ON MAY 07, 2021 09:50 AM IST

Sixty Canadian MPs have written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to drop “without delay” his government’s opposition to temporarily waiving intellectual property protections for vaccines and medication required to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, amid signs Ottawa may be softening its stance on the matter.

India and South Africa had submitted a proposal in October last year seeking that waiver under the Agreement of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, some nations, mainly from the West had opposed that move.

On Thursday, 60 Canadian MPs, belonging to the House of Commons and Senate and cutting across party lines, wrote to Trudeau demanding a change in Ottawa’s position. The MPs, including members of the ruling Liberal Party, wrote, “Simply, we need to eliminate all potential barriers to the timely access of affordable Covid-19 medical products, including vaccines and medicines, and scale up the manufacturing and supply of essential medical products. There is no question that normative intellectual property rights represent a significant potential barrier.”

The Canadian government is taking a softer line on this issue, as Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng told the House:“Canada will actively participate in negotiations to wave intellectual property protection, particular to Covid-19 vaccines.”

She also said Canada will continue to work with members of the World Trade Organisation or WTO “to reach an agreement and to find solutions that will accelerate the production and equitable distribution of vaccines”.

Canada’s new tone comes after the United States expressed its support for the waiver this week, and was joined in that stand by France.

The motion moved by India and South Africa was officially endorsed by 58 countries with 100 supporting it. The MPs, in their letter to Trudeau, said they wanted to add their “voices to call on the Government of Canada to endorse the proposed TRIPS waiver without delay and work collaboratively with WTO members to support its adoption”.

In an interview to CBC News, India’s High Commissioner to Ottawa Ajay Bisaria said India and Canada had a conversation ongoing in this regard at the level of the nations’ WTO ambassadors.

He added, “We’re hoping we get this through and I’m sure all our partners will be part of this process as we go forward.”

The Canadian MPs noted that opponents of the measure had argued that patent monopolies were necessary for pharmaceutical companies to recover their investments in research and development. However, they countered that this justification did not apply since Covid-19 vaccine development “was primarily financed through public investment and advanced market commitments”.

They asserted that “we all benefit when every human is vaccinated, and barriers to this objective must be removed wherever possible”.

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