OPINION: Let India Make Cheap Medicines
Monday, January 5, 2015
The Indian government subsidises food for its poorest citizens through a system of price supports and public stockpiling. The programme is critical to India’s future: According to Unicef, one in three of the world’s malnourished children lives in India.
But as India’s policy has expanded, it has come into conflict with the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) rules on agriculture. The conflict heated up last summer when India demanded an explicit assurance at the WTO that it could maintain its right-to-food programme. The United States resisted, and the standoff derailed the first new global trade agreement at the WTO since the 1990s.
The impasse now seems to be resolved; with American support, India has secured a “peace clause” at the WTO that protects its food programme from legal challenges. As India insisted, the deal applies indefinitely, until a permanent solution to the conflict is found, which could happen as early as the end of next year.
This is good news for poor people in India, including the children and nursing mothers that the programme particularly helps. It is good news for the poor in other countries that may have programmes like India’s. It is good news for India and the United States, the world’s two largest democracies, which must be able to cooperate with one another on a range of global issues. And it is good news for the WTO, which can move forward with the delayed agreement on trade facilitation.
This positive development on food, however, is in stark contrast to the United States’ approach to India’s policies on affordable medicines.
- Health Care