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Public Policy Newsletter Article

Congress questions USTR on TRIPS Waiver

  • 2021-05-20T15:00:00.000+0000
  • Author: Izzie Omer

On Thursday, May 13, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the Biden Administration’s 2021 Trade Policy and several Members took the opportunity to point out concerns over the Administration’s support of the TRIPS waiver, which would allow the suspension of IP protections for COVID-19 vaccines.

Representatives, including Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA22)-expressed concern over what countries are actually in a position to manufacture vaccines. Supporters of the TRIPS waiver have said that an IP waiver will allow lower-income countries to develop the vaccine themselves, but Nunes emphasized that China is likely one of the only countries that is a position to take advantage of the waiver and a strong U.S. competitor . He also asked about analysis that the USTR conducted to see what countries could make the vaccine as well as the time it would take them to build the necessary infrastructure. Ambassador Tai said that they had conducted analysis and did not have an answer on the time it would take to build necessary infrastructure. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA38) also echoed concerns over Chinese trade practices and supply chain.

While it is extremely disappointing the U.S. reversed its stance on intellectual property, the WTO needs consensus to be able to approve the agreement. The EU and the UK are currently standing against the TRIPS waiver.