PM calls for vaccine patent waiver, EU says ease curbs on imports

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi participates in the India-EU Leaders’ meeting through video conferencing (PTI)

NEW DELHI: The first India-EU Leaders' meeting on Saturday saw a major boost to trade ties with the two sides agreeing to resume negotiations, which had remained suspended since 2013, for a balanced and comprehensive free trade and investment agreements while PM Narendra Modi sought support for a TRIPs waiver for vaccine production-related patents.
In a statement after the meeting, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that while EU is ready to discuss "other proposals" for improving access to vaccines, it was important for countries to lift restrictions on vaccine import. EU leaders also urged the US to first remove its curbs on vaccine export before getting into any discussion on patent waiver that may augment production in future. Indian officials were hopeful of EU considering India's proposal.
The Indian government said it was the first time the leaders met in a EU+27 format with PM Narendra Modi as special invitee at the EU Council. The summit saw Modi calling for EU's support for India's joint proposal with South Africa for a TRIPS waiver. External affairs minister S Jaishankar said the two sides agreed to resume negotiations on Trade, Investment Protection and Geographical Indications, adding he was confident of a balanced and ambitious outcome.
While the US has supported the TRIPS waiver proposal, MEA secretary (West) Vikas Swarup said after the virtual being that EU's support at WTO for this waiver will ensure that India can scale up vaccine production for equitable and global access and save lives.
Negotiations on trade and investment agreements will be pursued on parallel tracks with an intention to achieve early conclusion. "This is a major outcome which will enable the two sides to realise the full potential of the economic partnership. India and 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," the statement said.
Government sources said EU leaders were warm and supportive of India's efforts to contain Covid. Portuguese PM Antonia Costa referred to his OCI status while French President Emmanuel Macron said, "India does not need to listen to lectures from anyone about vaccine supplies. India has exported a lot for humanity to many countries. We know what situation India is in." Spain PM Pedro Sanchez recalled Indian assistance last year and Belgian PM Alexander De Croo greeted Modi with a "kem chho".
"PM appreciated EU's swift response for mobilising 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 India and EU leaders 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.

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