'Reverse damage done by Trump': US Congress members write to Biden supporting India's TRIPS waiver proposal

This temporary TRIPS waiver is key for countries to manufacture necessary supplies of Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, members of US Congress, including Pramila Jayapal, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ro Khanna, said.
TRIPS waiver will help all, 10 Democratic senators and 108 Congress members have written to US President Joe Biden. (PTI File photo)
TRIPS waiver will help all, 10 Democratic senators and 108 Congress members have written to US President Joe Biden. (PTI File photo)
Published on May 01, 2021 10:37 PM IST
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Supporting India's proposal seeking a TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organization for Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics, 108 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to President Joe Biden saying unless countries co-operate and share medical technology, there will not be a sufficient supply of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments. The letter has been signed by Pramila Jayapal, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ro Khanna, Karen Bass, Brad Sherman and others.

The demand found support among Democratic Senators too as 10 of them, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markey, Chris Van Hollen and Raphael Warnock, wrote to Biden urging him to support the proposal of the temporary TRIPS waiver.

"Our globalised economy cannot recover if only parts of the world are vaccinated. In the end, the TRIPS waiver will help us all. This temporary TRIPS waiver is key for countries to manufacture necessary supplies of COVID19 treatments and vaccines. The current flexibilities included in TRIPS are ill-suited to an urgent, global crisis. TRIPS allows countries to negotiate compulsory licenses, a flexibility that was reaffirmed in the Doha Declaration. However, compulsory licenses must be negotiated by each WTO member country and for each patent or other protection applying to each individual product," the letter said.

India, South Africa to make fresh push for waiver of vaccine patents at WTO

The waiver was proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020 before vaccination against Covid-19 started. The proposal sought the lifting of certain intellectual property barriers so that countries can locally manufacture vaccines and therapeutics. The Trump administration at that time blocked the proposal.

"This temporary TRIPS waiver is key for countries to manufacture necessary supplies of COVID19 treatments and vaccines. The current flexibilities included in TRIPS are ill-suited to an urgent, global crisis. TRIPS allows countries to negotiate compulsory licenses, a flexibility that was reaffirmed in the Doha Declaration," the letter said.

However, compulsory licenses must be negotiated by each WTO member country and for each patent or other protection applying to each individual product, the signatories said.

Though there is the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative, which promises equitable distribution of vaccines and two billion vaccine doses t developing countries by the end of 2021, the amount would cover only 20 per cent of all participating countries, the congressmen said.

"As Covid-19 ravages the globe, we know that any vaccine or therapeutic pharmaceutical corporations develop with public money is 100% ineffective for those that cannot access it. We need to make public policy choices, both in the U.S. and at the WTO, that put lives first. Your Administration has an incredible opportunity to reverse the damage done by the Trump Administration to our nation's global reputation and restore America's public health leadership on the world stage," they wrote.

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Monday, October 18, 2021