A group of U.S. Republican representatives have sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai asking her to continue opposing a request to waive intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines.
The request for the World Trade Organization waiver, made by South Africa and India, argues that current intellectual property protections are stunting international response to the coronavirus by inhibiting vaccine rollout. The waiver was co-sponsored by Kenya, Eswatini, Mozambique, Pakistan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, the African Group and the Least Developed Countries Group. The two groups collectively represent 78 countries.
The letter sent to Tai was spearheaded by U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) and co-sponsored by 10 other representatives part of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. It argues that IP rights are not causing stunted vaccine rollouts and that access to treatments can be expanded without the waiver, which it says is “excessively broad.”
“In reality, factors other than IP have had a far greater effect on the availability of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. For example, the logistical challenges such as the lack of cold storage, transportation and infrastructure problems and shortages in basic supplies like syringes have posed significant challenges to widespread COVID-19 vaccination, particularly in developing countries,” the letter reads. “These issues are nothing new; vaccines have presented such problems for years. Canceling IP rights would do nothing to alleviate these problems now.”
The representatives also argue that IP rights would have adverse effects on American innovation and economic competitiveness without significant benefit.
“This danger is particularly acute considering that many of the crucial technological advances made by American businesses and institutions in the fight against COVID-19 were made on the back of billions of dollars of investments by American companies as well as billions more in American taxpayer money,” the letter said, adding that doing so would also be “endangering the far greater value of the jobs and economic growth promised by these IP rights.”
The letter to Tai said that while representatives are willing to work to solve other logistical issues, they still “urge you and the Biden Administration to maintain U.S. opposition to the waiver.”
Read the full letter to Tai here.
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