India and South Africa made a landmark proposal to the World Trade Organization in October 2020 that parts of their Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) be waived during the pandemic. This would allow the intellectual property behind Covid-19 treatments to be freely shared in order for increased production of life-saving vaccines.
The Biden administration finally stated its support for TRIPS waivers in May, but has remained passively silent since then. decliningTo advance the proposal at recent WTO meetings. Covid-19 vaccine recipes and technologies of treatments like Moderna’s, developed with the co-participation of the National Institute of Health, have still not been shared with other countries, and in the past few months the Omicron variant has emerged and spread while vaccinations rates remain low in many parts of the world.
The Biden administration’s statement in favor of a TRIPS waiver received immediate pushback from Republicans in Congress. On May 20, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the ranking member in the Committee on Finance, which has jurisdiction to regulate reciprocal trade agreements, filed a motion. amendmentThat was to make it more difficult to get the U.S. to waive the TRIPS Agreement for Covid-19 vaccinations.
The amendment would have required a review process among U.S departments and congressional approval for any TRIPS waive, seeking assurances that it would never extend to Russia and China, which it considered to be threats to U.S intellectual property. “I am concerned the Administration did not — because it could not — provide any evidentiary support for its claim that a waiver would facilitate access,” Crapo said.
The pharmaceutical industry stridently opposes the waiver, with top lobbying groups PhRMA warning such a move would “compromise safety” and BIO calling it a “dangerous precedent” that would “delay the equitable delivery of needed COVID vaccines to people around the globe.”
A report from the Congressional Research Service states that if the WTO were to adopt a TRIPS waiver, it would not change its members’ domestic IP protections automatically — each country would still have to decide whether or how to change their laws in order to implement the waiver.
The Crapo Amendment was co-sponsored 17 Republican senators including Mitt and Richard Romney of Utah, Richard Burr, North Carolina, and John Cornyn, Texas. These senators are among the top recipients for campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry to U.S. Senators. OpenSecrets.
According to a report by a, the average amount of pharmaceutical and campaign donations received by the 18 GOP senators over their careers has been nearly twice that of the 32 GOP senators, who did not sponsor it. SludgeReview of OpenSecrets data. Signers received an average of $708 442 in contributions from pharmaceuticals and the health products industry. This is 1.9 times more than what was available for non-signers, which was $372,000
Sen. Crapo has raised almost $714,000 from pharmaceuticals and the health products industry. This makes him 13th out of current Republican senators. Other large drugmaker donors co-sponsored his amendment, including retired Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania, with almost $875,000, as well as Todd Young, Indiana, with $745,000. The fourth-term Crapo, his state’s senior senator, filed for reelection last month, though he has not officially announced his intention to run. Trump supported him earlier in the year, after he voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
On May 25, Crapo’s amendment received 53 yeas to 46 nays, but did not advance because it needed 60 votes to pass. The voteThe vote was largely party-lined, with four Democratic-aligned senators joining Republicans, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Joe Manchin from West Virginia, and Independent Angus King (Maine), who caucuses along with the Democrats. John Kennedy of Louisiana, who didn’t sign the Crapo amendment did not vote. The first-term Kennedy is running for re-election next Year. His approval rating has been relatively low. $136,527In contributions from the pharmaceutical sector.
Thom Tillis, Republican Senator from Texas, has written multiple letters to Katherine Tai, U.S. Trade Representative, expressing concerns about the TRIPS waiver proposal. His most recent response was to a second letter from Public Knowledge and Electronic Frontier Foundation. They urged Biden not to apply the Covid-19 TRIPS waiver to patents but to all forms of intellectual properties. “The inclusion of copyright is both unsubstantiated and unwarranted, and would impose devastating consequences on American creators, businesses and workers,” Tillis wrote.
Tillis has received $689116 in pharmaceutical and health product industry payments over the course of his career. OpenSecrets. He was supported in his close 2020 electoral contest by over $475,000In contributions from pharmaceutical and healthcare products industry PACs.
In the weeks before Biden’s announcement, 10 Democrats and Democrat-caucusing senators including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin signed a letter supporting the TRIPS waiver, reaffirmed last month.
Cross-posted From The Brick House Cooperative.