PM Modi seeks EU’s support for TRIPS, EU says not a magic solution

NEW DELHI: The first India-EU Leaders’ Meeting Saturday saw a major boost to trade ties with the 2 sides agreeing to resume negotiations, which had remained suspended since 2013, for balanced and comprehensive free trade and investment agreements. Described by the government as an unprecedented occasion when PM Narendra Modi was a special invitee at the EU Council meeting, the summit saw Modi calling for EU’s support for India’s joint proposal with South Africa for a TRIPS waiver on vaccine production-related patents.
While the US has supported the proposal, as MEA secretary (west) Vikas Swarup said after the virtual being, the EU’s support at WTO for this waiver will ensure that India can scale up the vaccine production for equitable and global access and save lives. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted after the meeting that while EU was ready to discuss “other proposals” for improving access to vaccines, it was important for countries to lift restrictions on vaccine export. EU leaders also urged US to first remove its curbs on vaccine export before getting into any discussion on patent waiver that may augment production in the future. European Council chief Charles Michel was also quoted as saying that the proposed waiver wasn’t a magic solution.
“PM appreciated the EU’s swift response for mobilizing support to India’s COVID-19 response. As you would recall, India had kept its supply chains open during the first wave of COVID-19 last year and supplied essential drugs and masks to several EU countries. The EU’s current assistance is an example of trusted partners supporting each other in times of need,” said Swarup. A joint statement said the 2 sides supported universal, safe, equitable and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and treatments, and the strengthening of health systems. Modi had sought support from Australian PM Scott Morrison too for patent waiver on Friday.
The 2 sides also agreed on a comprehensive Connectivity Partnership outlining a shared desire to promote a “transparent, viable, inclusive, sustainable, comprehensive, and rules-based connectivity”. The summit saw the participation of leaders of all 27 EU Member States as well as the President of the European Council and the European Commission.
The connectivity initiative was also said to reflect the ambition of both sides to build on their synergies and pursue sustainable joint projects in third countries, most notably in the Africa, Central Asia and Indo-Pacific region. This will open up new avenues of cooperation for both sides, according to the government.
The government said in a statement that negotiations on both the trade and investment agreements will be pursued on parallel tracks with an intention to achieve early conclusion of the agreements together. “This is a major outcome which will enable the two sides to realise the full potential of the economic partnership. India and the EU also announced dedicated dialogues on WTO issues, regulatory cooperation, market access issues and supply chain resilience, demonstrating the desire to deepen and further diversify economic engagement,” it said.
On discussions related to foreign policy and security, and when asked if the border conflict with China was raised, Swarup said India had outlined its concerns about developments in the region and that issues concerning Myanmar and Afghanistan had come up.
Swarup said both sides had worked intensively over the last few months to arrive at a common understanding on free trade negotiations and that the decisions were also a result of the political desire on both sides to harness the full potential of India-EU economic engagement and work towards an early post-Covid-19 recovery.
Watch Covid-19: PM Modi calls for vaccine patent waiver



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