Expressing concern over the US government’s support for waiving some intellectual property (IP) protections related to the COVID-19 vaccines, more than 100 Republican lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden to rescind the move that they say would ‘serve as a massive giveaway’ to countries like China, Russia and India.
Early this month, US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai announced to support the move of India and South Africa at the WTO to temporarily waive some Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We strongly urge you to work with Congress, industry and other governments to rapidly and responsibly increase the supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide and rescind this harmful and misguided proposal,” wrote the Republican congressmen in a letter to Biden, a Democrat.
“It is imperative that we lead the world in increasing global access to COVID-19 vaccines while also affirming our nation’s long and storied history of protecting IP to spur innovation. American jobs, innovation, and the health and welfare of the entire world are at stake,” they said in the letter dated May 20.
Asserting that they remain committed to working together to address the global needs of vaccine distribution, the Republican lawmakers said that this proposed waiver will not help them meet that goal.
Intellectual Property protections have fostered life-saving biomedical innovation, strengthened the US economy, created millions of good-paying jobs, and made America the world leader in the development of cutting-edge diagnostics, treatments, and cures, they said. Congressman Earl L Carter, who along with Vern Buchanan led the move said that waiving the IP protections for the COVID-19 vaccines will be a disaster.
‘The insane move from the Biden administration not only counters our patent system, but it will also stifle the innovation of lifesaving drugs and cures by removing the incentives for investment,” Carter said.
“It is also a gift to China who has spent decades trying to steal American innovation, and who spent all last year trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine IP. We cannot allow this to happen, and I thank the more than 100 Republicans for standing with us,’ he said in a statement.
Buchanan said intellectual property rights encourage innovation and help boost the economy.
“The Biden administration’s misguided proposal to waive intellectual property protections would discourage innovation and make it more difficult to achieve the next life-saving medical breakthrough.
‘It would also serve as a massive giveaway to countries like China, Russia and India who have been trying to steal American innovators’ intellectual property for years,” he said.
The lawmakers in the letter argued that waiving the IP protections would only serve to undermine innovation and make it even more difficult for the industry to respond to both the current pandemic and future health emergencies.
“Moreover, if implemented, the proposal could have the opposite effect, by reducing the availability of critical raw materials necessary to manufacture these vaccines,’ the lawmakers said.
‘Recently, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the notion of waiving global IP protection because of the additional hurdles it would cause in the manufacture of these vaccines. Chancellor’s Merkel’s opposition underscores the dangers of this policy,” the letter said.