Bernie Sanders, nine other Senators ask Biden to support India’s IP waiver proposal at WTO

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on April 17, 2021

‘Local manufacturing of vaccines will prevent unnecessary deaths, expedite global vaccination efforts’

Ten US Senators, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have put their weight behind the India-South Africa proposal for temporary waiver of intellectual property rights during the Covid-19 pandemic and have asked US President Joe Biden to support it at the WTO.

“We urge you to support the adoption of this temporary waiver; doing so will help to ensure the most effective and efficient response to this once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic, “ the US Senators said in a letter to Biden.

The TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) waiver, proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020, would temporarily lift certain intellectual property barriers and allow countries to locally manufacture Covid-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. “Allowing countries to manufacture locally will expedite access to vaccines and treatment, prevent unnecessary deaths, expedite global vaccination efforts, and facilitate a stronger, faster economic recovery,” it added.

The previous US government, under Donald Trump, had vehemently opposed the proposal at the WTO. The continuous lobbying by major pharmaceutical companies against a temporary suspension of IP rights, even for a limited period, is one of the reasons behind the US and the EU opposing the waiver, analysts say.

“One has to see if the Biden regime, which is seen to be more inclined towards responding to the need of the common people, will be able to go against the pharmaceutical companies’ wishes and support the temporary suspension of TRIPS obligations,” an official tracking the matter told BusinessLine.

Earlier this week, more than 170 former world leaders and Nobel laureates wrote Biden asking for a suspension of intellectual property for Covid-19 vaccines.

At the WTO, too, there is huge support for the India-South Africa waiver proposal with as many as 57 countries co-spinsoring it and a total of over 100 countries providing support. A number of developed members, including the US and the EU, have, however, been questioning the need for a waiver.

“From a global public health

perspective, this waiver is vital to ensuring sufficient volume of and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics around the world, which is why the waiver is supported by more than 100 nations. The TRIPS waiver is also essential to ensure all global economies, including the US economy, can recover from the pandemic and thrive,” the Senators said.

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has increased to around 150 million cases worldwide with deaths from the pandemic touching 3 million.

Published on April 17, 2021

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