A number of Republican senators are urging President Joe Biden’s administration to reverse its “disastrous” decision to give U.S. COVID-19 medical technology and intellectual property to China under a controversial “Trips waiver.”
The Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) waiver was first proposed by India and South Africa, and would suspend intellectual property protections for products and technologies needed for the fight against COVID-19, including vaccines, for the duration of the pandemic.
On May 5, U.S. Trade Representative Trade Katherine Tai released a statement on behalf of the administration which voiced support for the TRIPS waiver.
These extraordinary times and circumstances of call for extraordinary measures.— Ambassador Katherine Tai (@AmbassadorTai) May 5, 2021
The US supports the waiver of IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic and we’ll actively participate in @WTO negotiations to make that happen. pic.twitter.com/96ERlboZS8
However, more than a dozen Republican senators have now voiced their concerns over the controversial waiver, stating that it would do nothing to end the global pandemic and would instead “foster uncoordinated vaccine nationalism.”
Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Representative Tai on May 20, asking them to reverse the Biden administration’s decision to support the proposal.
In the strongly-worded letter (PDF Below), the senators argued that the waiver would undermine the “nation’s global leadership in the technologies, medicines and treatments of the future” and “provide a boost to the Chinese Communist Party’s ‘vaccine diplomacy’ and enable Beijing to undercut American leadership on vaccine distribution throughout the developing world.”
They noted that countries such as China, India, and South Africa had “falsely claimed” that the waiver would speed up the development of new vaccine capacity, and pointed to a lack of technological capacity in the supply chain as the underlying reason as to why there are not currently enough vaccine doses.
“Vaccine production is a complex technical and logistical process, with limited technical resources (e.g., skilled scientists and technicians at companies). At best, all President Biden’s giveaway to China and India and others will do is foster uncoordinated vaccine nationalism, as countries jump in to try to coerce technology transfer and manufacturing locally,” the senators wrote in their letter.