US Trade Representative Catherine Tai said Wednesday that she is pushing for a divestiture of intellectual property rights for the COVID-19 vaccine because the United States and drug manufacturers “have a responsibility to help save the world right now.”
Tai, speaking at a hearing before the US Senate Finance Committee, said she sees negotiations at the World Trade Organization as a way to address the intellectual property issue as an obstacle to vaccine production. She supported the WTO negotiations last week. read more
She praised the work of US companies to rapidly develop and produce safe and effective vaccines, adding that with regard to intellectual property, “I want to tell them, ‘Here you can be a hero.’
Several Republican senators criticized Ty for “handing out” American innovations to foreign competitors by supporting negotiations at the WTO.
Tai said she believes it is less about preventing other countries from “stealing” American technology, but more about finding a way to make a positive impact on people’s lives by ending the coronavirus pandemic.
“What we are trying to achieve is saving lives,” she said, adding that ending the pandemic is a necessary first step in any future trade policy.
“If we can’t get the rest of the world’s economy back online, we don’t have much promise in what we’re going to do,” in trade, Tai said.
India is experiencing a pandemic tragedy of “unimaginable proportions”, Tai said, and South Africa, another major proponent of vaccine avoidance, lacks vaccine manufacturing capacity and needs it to end the pandemic on the African continent.
“Negotiations in the WTO will take time and the negotiation process is just beginning,” added Tai.
She added that she does not believe the withdrawal negotiations lead to a slippery slope of wider erosion of intellectual property rights, as the current crisis is unique and threatens millions of lives. Such a move away from clean energy technologies will not be necessary to tackle the climate change crisis, Tai said.
Asked by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren if the USTR would support a broader WTO waiver of intellectual property over COVID-19 treatments, therapies, protective equipment and other health products, Ty said she is currently only focused on increasing access to vaccines. and ensuring justice.
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