UK-India trade deal poses threat to India’s farmers and pharma sector
Date: 11 January 2022
Responding to the news that international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, is to launch trade talks with India on Wednesday, Jean Blaylock, trade campaigner at Global Justice Now said:
“Any trade deal with India needs to protect healthcare, access to medicines, jobs and workers rights. But, two themes loom over these trade talks – farmers and big pharma – and the mood music sounds ominous.
“At the end of last year, Indian farmers won a victory against ‘anti-farmer’ laws that would have stripped away jobs and livelihoods from millions of small-scale farmers and handed control to agribusiness. A UK trade deal with India must not be used to undermine farmers’ rights and reverse that hard fought gain.
“India has long been known as the pharmacy of the developing world – and its vaccine production expertise has been vital in the pandemic. But pharmaceutical giants want to use trade talks to reinforce rules on patents, which have already been a barrier to low and middle-income countries’ response to the pandemic. We need clear assurances from the minister that the UK will not give in to Big Pharma’s pressure to increase their stranglehold on lifesaving medicines and vaccines.
“Unbelievably, however, the UK government is avoiding scrutiny of any trade deal with India by refusing to publish its objectives for talks or respond to the public consultation in advance of the talks starting. Trade policy should be democratically accountable and it’s dismaying to see trade talks launched without this.”
Global trade rules on patents are contained in the WTO’s TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement. India and South Africa have led calls for a TRIPS waiver on pandemic related vaccines, medicines and other technologies, which are supported by more than 100 countries but so far opposed by the UK. Lobbyists for big pharmaceutical companies have called for so-called TRIPS-Plus provisions in trade deals, including in the UK’s trade deals.
Thousands of Indian farmers blockaded roads in Delhi for a year in protest at the introduction of three new farm laws. In November 2021, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, agreed to repeal the laws.
For more information or an interview, contact Joe Karp-Sawey [email protected] or +44 (0)7711 875 345
Photo: Boris Johnson meets with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at the G7 in France in 2019. Credit: Number 10/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)