China, on Monday, said that it is "supportive" of India and South Africa's request for a temporary waiver of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for Covid-19 vaccines.
China which is actively pursuing vaccine diplomacy added that Beijing will support any action that helps developing countries battle the pandemic, reports The Economic Times.
In a communication to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in October last year, India and South Africa requested a TRIPS waiver of some intellectual property provisions of Covid-19 vaccines so that people in developing countries can get access to life-saving vaccines and therapeutics as soon as possible.
Since then, the idea has gained traction in the United States and the European Union.
Given the urgency, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala urged member countries to rapidly present and negotiate a text that would temporarily relax trade rules protecting Covid-19 vaccine technology.
"China fully understands and is supportive of the developing world's demand for an IPR waiver for Covid-19 vaccines", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters here, without directly referring to India and South Africa's proposal.
"As the largest developing country and a responsible member of the international community, China will do all things that are conducive to developing countries' fight against the virus and support all actions that can help developing countries acquire vaccines in an equitable way," Zhao said.
China, which has given emergency approval to five domestically-made vaccines, has recently got approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) for its first vaccine, Sinopharm.
Zhao said China has provided vaccine assistance to over 80 countries and three international organisations and vaccine exports to over 50 countries.
"We are also working with over 10 developing countries including Egypt and the UAE on technological transfer and cooperative production to quickly advance large-scale production of vaccines," he said.
China also promised to supply 10 million vaccines to COVAX, a global vaccine distribution campaign backed by the WHO.
Early this month, more than 100 American lawmakers wrote to US President Joe Biden, urging him to support India's proposal to the WTO to temporarily lift certain intellectual property barriers and allow countries to locally manufacture Covid-19 diagnostics and vaccines.
TRIPS came into effect in January 1995. It is a multilateral agreement on intellectual property (IP) rights such as copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets.
TRIPS allows countries to negotiate compulsory licences, a flexibility that was reaffirmed in the Doha Declaration. However, compulsory licences must be negotiated by each WTO member country and for each patent or other protection applying to each individual product.
Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan said on Friday the proposal had received support from several countries.
"I am hopeful that in an early timeframe, some decision will be reached at the WTO...I am hopeful that an early outcome will be achieved on this," he told reporters in New Delhi.
The move would help in scaling up the production of vaccines and other essential products to deal with the coronavirus, he added.