White House considering supporting India, S Africa move at WTO on COVID vaccines
Washington, Mar 27: The White House is considering supporting a move by India and South Africa before the World Trade Organization on emergency temporary waiver of some Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules so that greater supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, treatment, and diagnostic tests can be produced globally, a media report has said.
Such a positive consideration by the Joe Biden administration comes after more than 60 lawmakers, mostly progressives, and a large number of rights and non-profit pharma bodies have approached the White House to support the move of India and South Africa along with hundreds of other nations that have urgently gone to the WTO seeking a time-limited waiver of the TRIPS agreement.
The previous Trump administration had opposed such a move. The Indian Embassy here has also reached out to several lawmakers, including the members of the Indian Caucus, advocacy groups and administration in this regard. The temporary TRIPS waiver would allow countries and manufacturers to directly access and share technologies to produce vaccines and therapeutics without causing trade sanctions or international disputes.
"The White House is weighing whether to suspend intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, in response to pressure from developing nations and subsequent support from progressive lawmakers, according to three sources familiar with the matter," CNBC news said.
According to the news report, the White House convened a meeting of deputy-level policymakers on March 22, but they reached no final decision. "The view is 'We're not safe until the world is safe,' one of the sources said of the support from progressives on Capitol Hill."
At a news conference early this month, Congressmen Rosa DeLauro, Jan Schakowsky, Earl Blumenauer, Lloyd Doggett, Adriano Espaillat, and Andy Levin urged President Joe Biden to support an emergency temporary waiver at the WTO as requested by countries led by India and South Africa.
The lawmakers said in the coming times more than 60 US representatives would collectively write to Biden to announce support for the TRIPS waiver proposed by India and South Africa at the WTO.
The temporary TRIPS waiver would allow countries and manufacturers to directly access and share technologies to produce vaccines and therapeutics without causing trade sanctions or international disputes, they said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also written a letter to Biden in this regard supporting the cause of the progressive members of her party, who now enjoy considerable influence in the Democratic Party.
CNBC said the move would allow other countries to replicate existing vaccines. The United States has so far approved three vaccine shots: one developed by American company Pfizer and German-based BioNTech, another produced by U firm Moderna and the third made by American company Johnson & Johnson, it said.
"As part of rebuilding our alliances, we are exploring every avenue to coordinate with our global partners and are evaluating the efficacy of this specific proposal by its true potential to save lives," USTR spokesman Adam Hodge told CNBC.
Pharma companies and the US Chambers of Commerce have opposed any move to support India and South Africa at the WTO.