May 25,2021

Wyden Statement on Senate Floor on Competition Bill TRIPS Waiver Amendment

As Prepared for Delivery

Mr. President, my colleague Senator Crapo has brought forward an amendment to the competition bill before. It deals with the Biden administration’s announcement that it would participate in negotiations on intellectual property and the coronavirus vaccines. His amendment also goes beyond the current crisis and adds roadblocks to any improvements to any other trade agreements in the future. I oppose Senator Crapo’s amendment. I’m offering an alternative, which the Senate will vote on shortly.

The fact is, even though COVID is receding in the U.S., the virus will still be a danger to Americans as long as there are outbreaks and mutations happening around the world. That’s a big reason why the Biden administration is working hard to increase vaccine production and distribution as quickly as possible – in the U.S. and around the world. It’s also why the administration announced its intention to participate in negotiations over the vaccine IP waivers.

The U.S. trade representative will be in charge of our participation in those negotiations. Senator Crapo’s amendment would tie up USTR in bureaucratic red tape and reporting for many months before they could speak to any of our trading partners about this issue.

Ambassador Tai and the Biden administration recognize that the TRIPS waiver is not going to end the pandemic overnight. However, the American people and countries around the world cannot afford the delay the Crapo amendment would cause.

The Crapo Amendment would also put USTR in a straitjacket, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to negotiate fixes or modifications to any trade agreement, for any reason.

It would make the process for modifying an agreement more difficult than getting into that agreement in the first place. That would be a big roadblock to improvements that could raise standards for workers and the environment.

I have filed an alternative, Amendment #1975. My amendment guarantees transparency and consultations in any negotiating process. It makes clear that the U.S. must promote global access to vaccines, all while safeguarding IP from hostile foreign powers and protecting American innovation.

Here’s my bottom line: It’s not only possible, it’s absolutely essential for our system to include strong intellectual property protections, as well as exceptions to promote the common good at the same time.

My amendment strikes the right balance. The Crapo amendment simply goes too far in the direction of blocking the administration from using all available tools to fight the pandemic and to make improvements to any other trade agreements. For that reason, I urge support for Wyden amendment #1975, and I urge members to oppose the Crapo amendment, which will be the next vote.