United States Supports WTO Intellectual Property Waiver for COVID Vaccines

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United States Supports WTO Intellectual Property Waiver for COVID Vaccines


The United States will support a proposal to remove intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines, joining an effort to increase global supply and access to life-saving vaccines as the gap between rich and poor countries are widening.
“We are for the waiver at the WTO, we are for what the supporters of the waiver are trying to achieve, which is better access, more manufacturing capacity, more shots,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Wednesday. .

The Biden administration will now actively participate in negotiations on the waiver text at the World Trade Organization and encourage other countries to support it, said U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. [File: Getty Images]

The Biden administration will now actively participate in negotiations on the waiver text at the World Trade Organization and encourage other countries to support it, Tai said.

She acknowledged that the talks will take time and “will not be easy,” given the complexity of the issue and the fact that the Geneva-based WTO is a member-driven organization that can only make decisions on the basis of the issue. basis of consensus.

“In terms of how quickly the WTO can deliver – it literally depends on the ability of WTO members, collectively, to be able to deliver, and so I’m the first to admit that we are looking at it. on a process that won’t be easy, ”Tai said. She added that she saw the energy of WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala “to seize this opportunity and see what the WTO is capable of. “

India and South Africa, two countries struggling to contain new outbreaks of Covid-19, have urged WTO members to temporarily suspend rules on intellectual property rights, arguing it would be the most effective and equitable way to address vaccine shortages in poor countries.

Other Holdouts

The United States is not the only country that has so far refused to support the waiver. The European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Switzerland, Brazil and Norway have also resisted this push. However, supporters of the waiver argue that US leadership on the issue could help influence other resistance fighters. The timing of the approval of the derogation depends on how quickly Member States can reach an agreement.

“Considering what is at stake, this is the best chance for the WTO to be able to come together to offer something that will help people and make a difference,” Tai said.

Drugmakers opposed the move, claiming the waiver plan is ineffective. They argue that few countries have the capacity to produce more vaccines even if they knew the formulas. In addition, the global supply of needed materials is limited, and building new factories with the technology to produce the vaccines could take years, they say.

As U.S. vaccinations progressed and epidemics dwindled in recent weeks, the White House has come under pressure from progressive Democrats and public health advocates to take a stand after deliberating on the issue, while the India in particular is suffering from an increase in deaths and infections.

As interagency discussions continued, Tai also met with CEOs of all vaccine companies and held appeals with members of Congress and other civil society and public health stakeholders.

At a WTO meeting on Wednesday, India and South Africa agreed to revise their proposal, first introduced in October, to present it to members for a meeting tentatively scheduled for the second half of this year. may.

The role of Okonjo-Iweala

A WTO spokesman told reporters that Okonjo-Iweala is encouraged by India’s and South Africa’s willingness to address the concerns of other countries in their revised proposal.

In proposing an American position, Tai and Biden’s team had to balance the views of competing stakeholders to ensure that any outcome on the issue would save lives without stifling innovation.

While progressive lawmakers, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, pushed the White House to support the waiver, the pharmaceutical industry argued that the transfer of vaccine technology to China and Russia would hurt their ability to compete.

In April, Tai called on the pharmaceutical industry to make sacrifices.

“The desperate needs our people face in the current pandemic offer these companies the opportunity to be the heroes they claim to be – and can be,” she said during a virtual conference at the WTO. “As governments and leaders of international institutions, the highest standards of courage and sacrifice are required of us in times of crisis. The same must be demanded of the industry. ”



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