After Switzerland and Mexico circulated evidence to all World Trade Organization members rebutting arguments for the proposed extension of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver, which cedes U.S. intellectual property on vaccines, treatments and therapies from U.S. innovators to foreign competitors, Ways and Means Republican Leader Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) issued a statement:
“It’s always troubling when foreign countries do more than America to protect U.S. interests. At the World Trade Organization Switzerland and Mexico are unafraid to use facts to challenge the misconception that giving away U.S. medical innovation is necessary to address global COVID vaccine challenges. As they say, the TRIPS waiver has accomplished nothing, and extending it to diagnostics and therapeutics is equally unhelpful.
“Switzerland and Mexico point out that supply exceeds demand for COVID-19 vaccines, and pharmaceutical companies have voluntarily entered into agreements to ensure access to diagnostics and therapeutics at affordable prices in hundreds of developing countries. They rightly warn that expanding the TRIPS waiver will undermine important incentives for future life-saving innovation.
“This begs the question, why are two foreign nations doing more to protect American medical innovation than President Biden?
“The White House and congressional Democrats should not be giving our most disruptive foreign competitors the green light to steal not only U.S.-developed vaccine research and technology, but also other medical innovations, including diagnostics and therapeutics.”
Background on the TRIPS Waiver:
- Switzerland and Mexico recently circulated a Communication to all WTO members that presents evidence and asks questions about whether a broader waiver of WTO TRIPS Agreement rules would improve access to diagnostics and therapeutics related to COVID-19.
- Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have repeatedly asked the U.S. Trade Representative for evidence that shows waving American innovators’ IP rights would improve health outcomes related to COVID-19. More than a year later, the Biden Administration has yet to provide an answer.
- The WTO TRIPS Agreement establishes certain minimum IP standards.
- In May 2021, the Biden Administration announced in “service of ending this pandemic,” it would support a “limited” waiver of U.S. rights under the WTO TRIPS Agreement, exclusively related to vaccines.
- In June 2022, the Biden Administration agreed to waive certain key IP rights related to COVID-19 vaccines for five years, with the possibility of an extension. Again, contrary to its claims to Congress, the Biden Administration also agreed to initiate discussions to expand the scope of the waiver beyond vaccines to medical diagnostics and therapeutics, a potentially immense category of products.
- The decision undermines America’s innovators who developed the world’s most effective vaccines, as well as the workers manufacturing these vaccines, and potentially empowers China’s firms that have been trying to steal U.S. mRNA research.
- In fact, the Administration agreed to language that simply “encourages” China to opt-out from using the waiver and is willing to take China’s word that it will not use the waiver.
- Currently, supply of COVID-19 therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines vastly exceeds demand.