According to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks on intellectual property exemption from COVID 19 vaccines are an opportunity for a profoundly divided trading body to become important to the needs of the world.
Tai told the House Ways and Means Committee that she is committed to negotiations that consider the needs of all parties, including drug firms.
“The WTO has a track record of 164 members all agreeing on not moving quickly or meeting Yes, very much,” Tai explained. “This is an occasion for the WTO to demonstrate its humanity.”
Tai heard republican legislation for the second day in a row condemn the waiver of intellectual property rights as transferring critical biopharmaceutical technology to China, Russia, and other strategic competitors without increasing vaccine supply.
Republican Representative Devin Nunes expressed concern that China is one of the few countries capable of rapidly producing messenger RNA vaccines, a technology that is partially dependent on taxation in US dollars.
“They [China] seem to want to steal this very new technology, especially vaccines from Modern and Pfizer,” he said.
Tai stated that the Administration is focusing on leadership in the matter in order to find a solution that will save lives and return the planet to a faster rate of growth that will help the US.
The initial, much wider proposal’s supporters, India and South Africa, expressed a “major vulnerability in that they do not have access to and cannot manufacture vaccines,” according to Tai.
On Wednesday, Tai told the Senate that vaccine manufacturers could be “heroes” by assisting the world in gaining greater access to COVID-19 vaccines.
She refused to share the specifics of her discussions with drug firms until announcing their agreement to engage in WTO waiver negotiations last week. She did, however, mention that some are motivated by factors other than shareholder obligations.
“Some see themselves as key players in the global public health climate,” she said.
Tai pointed out that a waiver of intellectual property is just one of the steps being taken to improve the production and delivery of vaccines around the world.
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