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সোমবার, ০৪ জুলাই ২০২২, ০৯:৫৭ অপরাহ্ন
সোমবার, ০৪ জুলাই ২০২২, ০৯:৫৭ অপরাহ্ন

Webinar on Trade in Medicines and Emergencies at NSU

Campus Desk
  • আপডেট সময় : বৃহস্পতিবার, ৩১ মার্চ, ২০২২
  • ১৬৪ বার পঠিত
Webinar on Trade in Medicines and Emergencies at NSU

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The Department of Law, North South University organized a webinar on the topic ‘From Self Sufficiency to Collective Security: How the Covid Pandemic Should Reshape How We Think about Trade in Vaccines, Medicines, and Essentials’ on 30 March 2022 and the guest speaker was Mr Michael Ewing-Chow, Associate Professor and WTO Chair, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore. Dr Md. Rizwanul Islam, Chair, Department of Law, North South University, gave the introductory remarks.

In his speech, Professor Ewing-Chow observed that human beings are self-interest-driven, but there is a scope for collective or enlightened self-interest. He remarked that even during acute scarcity, we need not act entirely selfishly; we can act more altruistically. He highlighted that on the one hand, by relying on trade and rational stockpiling to absorb sudden shocks in the supply chain, a country like Singapore can achieve a very high degree of food security.

On the other hand, even with so much disposable cash, a country like Saudi Arabia would find it very difficult to achieve self-sufficiency in food production, as epitomized by the Saudi Arabian effort to increase wheat production, which was economically and environmentally unsustainable. Professor Ewing-Chow observed that contrary to the Malthusian prediction, even accounting for climate-change-induced threats, there would likely be much more food in decades to come.

However, that does not guarantee a hunger-free world unless we can ensure even distribution. He noted that the challenge to ensure smooth supplies of foods, medicines, and vaccines is mercantilist policies pursued by many states. He argued that the main trigger for the food price shock of 2008 was not a bad harvest but rather export restrictions and the prospect of export restrictions fueling speculation.

Professor Ewing-Chow shared his experience in playing a role in drafting the Regional Rice Agreement for ASEAN +3 (i.e. ASEAN member states and China, Japan, and South Korea) to effectively deal with the rice crisis. He shared that he could convince the policymakers that any origin non-neutral rice would flout the WTO law and underscore the need for maintaining a virtual rice reserve for the member states of the ASEAN+3 Free Trade Agreement. He noted that though there is some justifiable unease about the Trade Related Aspects of the Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), one needs to remember that it is not possible to pool huge resources for inventing vaccines without any intellectual property protection.

He commented that it is important that the global rules-based trading system be based on collective action to tackle existential threats posed to humanity, such as the Covid-19 pandemic or climate change.
Professor Ewing-Chow commented that he thinks that the fear about the safety of the generic medicine produced by the developing and least developed countries is often exaggerated. He concluded his thought-provoking speech by observing that no human being, no country is an island which can survive by solely focusing on itself. Scarcity can be caused by a lack of imagination or industry, or both. We can do better together, Professor Ewing-Chow observed.

The speech of Professor Ewing-Chow was followed by a question answer-session moderated by the Chair, Department of Law, North South University. This was the 25th webinar of the international webinar series of the Department of Law, North South University, which was launched in January 2021. Eminent Professors from Australia, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America graced the webinar series by delivering their lectures.

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