January 25,2024

Crapo, Coons, Tillis, Carper Urge Administration to Reject TRIPS Waiver

Washington D.C.--U.S. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Finance Committee Members Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Tom Carper (D-Delaware) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), along with ten of their colleagues, wrote today to President Biden urging him to reject the proposal before the World Trade Organization (WTO) that would waive intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.  Waiving protections afforded by the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP Rights (TRIPS) could have unintended consequences for the development of new treatments for dangerous diseases, while doing little to improve access to medicine.

The lawmakers write, “A 2022 WTO agreement to waive certain IP protections for COVID-19 vaccines has had minimal impact: to date, no countries have used that waiver.  Meanwhile, U.S. companies have provided free access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics through donations and more than 400 voluntary licensing partnerships, leading to a global surplus of supply.  As the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) explained in a recent report, ‘current levels of manufacturing far exceed purchases’ of COVID-19 treatments globally.  Given the negligible impact of the 2022 waiver, the abundant supply of COVID-19 treatments, and the fact that the WHO has declared an end to the global public health emergency, it is hard to see any validity to the continuing pressure brought by certain WTO members to waive IP rights for these products.

They continue, “Waiving rules meant to incentivize the discovery and production of life-saving medicines will cause investors and innovators to shift their efforts elsewhere. In this way, the proposed IP waiver would have the perverse effect of diminishing development of new treatments for dangerous diseases.  What is more, allowing foreign competitors to disregard IP protections for made-in-the-USA biomedical technologies would undercut U.S. businesses and undermine the efforts of the workers who brought those technologies to market.  Much of our economic strength is built upon the basis of robust IP protection, and eroding this foundation would only serve to weaken our global competitiveness.

They conclude, “It is clear that IP protection is not constraining access to COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics for people in lower-income countries, and an expanded TRIPS waiver will not solve broader health system challenges.  To address these challenges, the United States invests more than $12 billion every year in developing public health systems around the world, and invested an additional $10.5 billion specifically for the global response to COVID-19.  We remain committed in Congress to continuing U.S. leadership in providing the tools and resources that will effectively address the barriers that constrain global access to life-saving medicines.”

In addition to Senators Crapo, Coons, Tillis and Carper, the letter is signed by Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), John Cornyn (R-Texas), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Montana), Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona).


The full text of the letter is available here