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U.S. Won’t Back Expanded IP Waiver by Year’s End

The U.S. is not prepared to support a decision that would undermine critical global intellectual property protections for COVID-19 treatments and testing this year, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said this week, according to Bloomberg.

The background: In May 2021, the U.S. backed a waiver for IP rights of COVID-19 vaccines, which countries agreed upon at the World Trade Organization’s 12th Ministerial Conference in June 2022.

What’s going on: In an official release, USTR signaled U.S. support for a delay of the Dec. 17 deadline for countries to decide whether to expand an existing waiver, saying that “real questions remain” about whether an expanded waiver would be effective. 

  • The U.S. needs more information “on a range of issues” before it will consider consenting to an expansion waiver, and it will tap the USITC to start an investigation—which could take up to a year—into the matter.

Why it’s important: “An expanded intellectual property waiver would jeopardize American innovations that are fundamental to fighting current and future pandemics and undermine U.S. technology leadership over our commercial rivals, such as China,” said NAM Vice President of International Economic Affairs Ken Monahan.

  • “Manufacturers welcome USTR’s announcement supporting a delay in the decision on whether or not to expand the WTO’s waiver on COVID-19 products and domestic supply chains, and we urge all WTO members to fully consider the consequences of such an expanded waiver.”

Bipartisan concern: “U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have warned the White House that an IP waiver for tests and treatments ‘will have devastating, long-reaching effects on access to treatments beyond those used for COVID-19,’” according to Bloomberg.

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