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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