- India and other developing countries have succeeded in withdrawing the three harmful provisions concerning pharmaceuticals and agriculture which were part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement.
- The provisions were taken off the negotiating table after India argued against the provisions of patent term extensions and data exclusivity.
- These provisions would have led to pharma monopolies which would give protection to MNC drugs even after patents have ended,thus delaying entry and exports of affordable generics across the world.
- The other significant provision relates to a tighter intellectual property (IP) regime on seed and planting materials which was potentially detrimental for the country’s agriculture sector.
- The provision would have led farmers losing the right to save or sell seeds or the harvested produce from plant varieties that have been granted intellectual property.
- Further,India had negotiated to reject high-level protections at RCEP under the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).UPOV is a provision going beyond World Trade Organization or WTO-plus.
- UPOV compliance means the demand for patent-like rights for plant varieties which will only favours seed MNCs.This would have led to restrictions on farmers inherent seed freedoms.
- The experience of PepsiCo suing farmers for IPR infringement in Gujarat in 2018-19 despite a supposedly unique farmer-friendly plant variety in the country ought to have convinced our trade negotiators how perversely such IPR laws can be enforced by powerful players.
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