Calling for removal of "multiple" hurdles in access to medicines at affordable prices, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said intellectual property rights (IPRs) should not become a hindrance in their availability.
He said the TRIPS (trade related aspects of intellectual property rights) agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) did not envisage a pandemic where demand for vaccines and medicines would come from several countries simultaneously, with the requirement changing at a rapid pace.
"The minister called for removing multiple hurdles in access to medicines at affordable prices created by the lopsided WTO rules for protecting intellectual property," a ministry statement said.
He said "IPRs should not block access to critical medicines and other devices required for the treatment of the disease".
Addressing the 10th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Trade Ministers virtual meeting, Goyal also called for enhancing transparency in their trade and building trust to prevent losing their role as a pre-eminent trade partners.
He added that for trade to play its part in the recovery process, all the partners must be trustworthy and transparent.
"It is trust and transparency which determines the sustainability of global supply chains and nations must demonstrate their compliance with global rules of trade to remain a part of global trade flow,"he added.
Goyal said the ongoing crisis has exposed the world to vulnerabilities, forcing countries to explore ways to support each other.
Trade can be an engine for reviving growth in such a scenario and this is premised on strengthening of the WTO based on its principles of openness, fairness, transparency, inclusivity, and non-discrimination, he added.
Further, the minister said that the multilateral rules-based trading system is facing "serious and grave" challenges, including a spate of unilateral measures and countermeasures, deadlock in key areas of negotiations and an impasse in the appellate body.
He said the WTO reform process should take into account existing realities in the world and should be inclusive, balanced and consensus based, leading to prosperity for all.
"It is disheartening that we are seeing some proposals at the WTO seeking to ride on the pandemic for pursuing commercial ends. It will essentially support the quest of developed countries' firms to have unhindered access to the markets in developing countries, while putting constraints on developing countries to establish domestic manufacturing capacities," he added.
The minister also said that any economic partnership must keep in mind the different size and population of each country, unequal levels of economic development and human development indicators, contrasting levels of prosperity, cultural diversity and significantly different political and judicial systems.
"India provided critical medical supplies to around 150 countries in these troubled times. As the 'Pharmacy of the World' we have catered to the spike in demand for drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol being used for the treatment of COVID-19," Goyal said.
Calling upon BRICS to support responsible investment, Goyal said it should be aimed at balanced outcomes and create gains even for recipient countries and, most importantly, employment generation.