As the House and Senate gear up for key trade hearings this week, manufacturers are watching with great concern a purported compromise between the U.S., EU, South Africa and India that would waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, according to POLITICO EU (subscription).
The background: In October 2020, India and South Africa tabled a proposal to waive IP rights for a broad array of COVID-19 preventions and treatments, including vaccines. Although the U.S. Trade Representative in May 2021 announced support for a waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, member states have remained divided on the proposal, with European governments and a range of American, European and other voices opposing the waiver, saying it is problematic and ineffective.
The latest: This week, members of the two key congressional committees—the House Committee on Ways and Means (Wednesday) and the Senate Finance Committee (Thursday)—will question U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on the so-called Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver among discussion on other trade priorities.
- Earlier this month, Ambassador Tai’s office confirmed U.S. agreement to the broad compromise, though not the specific text. The purported text “states that a country wouldn’t need to try to secure authorization from the holder of the patent before undertaking this process. Rather than being limited to compulsory licensing, it ‘includes other acts, such as executive orders, emergency decrees and judicial or administrative orders.’ It would also bundle together all patents necessary to produce a product,” according to POLITICO.
- The NAM notes that the purported text could be used to waive not just critical COVID-19-related patents but critical manufacturing-production technologies in general. This allowance could hit a broad swath of manufacturers.
- Congressional voices ramped up almost immediately after the announcement: Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) urged Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to “take all steps possible … to reverse Ambassador Tai’s disastrous decision to enter into this agreement.” The waiver, they said, would “destroy high-paying American jobs” and “enable any company or government—including hostile actors like China and Russia—to simply steal cutting-edge American technology.”
The NAM says: The proposed waiver, which still requires agreement from EU member states and World Trade Organization member countries more broadly, would not solve the critical manufacturing and supply chain challenges—and that the critical challenge now is not vaccine supply, but distribution and demand.
- The kind of innovation that created the coronavirus vaccines “is a fundamental American value and has been not only a core of our response to this pandemic, but also the foundation of our ability to create new health products and solutions to respond quickly to future health emergencies,” said NAM Vice President of International Economic Affairs Ken Monahan.
- Waiving property rights for innovative products would harm both U.S. technology leadership and the well-paying jobs it provides, he said.
Instead of a waiver of critical intellectual property, Monahan called for “effective, practical broadly supported initiatives suited to best fight COVID-19 now, including stronger coordination to tackle these bottlenecks and facilitate trade in health products.”
Washington, D.C. – Ahead of the midterm elections, the National Association of Manufacturers released its policy roadmap, “Competing to Win,” a comprehensive blueprint featuring immediate solutions for bolstering manufacturers’ competitiveness. It is also a roadmap for policymakers on the laws and regulations needed to strengthen the manufacturing industry in the months and years ahead.
With the country facing rising prices, snarled supply chains and geopolitical turmoil, manufacturers are outlining an actionable competitiveness agenda that Americans across the political spectrum can support. “Competing to Win” includes the policies manufacturers in America will need in place to continue driving the country forward.
“‘Competing to Win’ offers a path for bringing our country together around policies, shared values and a unified purpose,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “The NAM is putting forward a plan filled with ideas that policymakers could pursue immediately, including solutions to urgent problems, such as energy security, immigration reform, supply chain disruptions, the ongoing workforce shortage and more. Manufacturers have shown incredible resilience through difficult times, employing more workers now than before the pandemic, but continued resilience is not guaranteed without the policies that are critical to the state of manufacturing in America.”
The NAM and its members will leverage “Competing to Win” to shape policy debates ahead of the midterm elections, in the remainder of the 117th Congress and at the start of the 118th Congress—including in direct engagement with lawmakers, for grassroots activity, across traditional and digital media and through events in key states and districts as we did following the initial rollout of the roadmap in 2016.
The document focuses on 12 areas of action, and all policies are rooted in the values that have made America exceptional and keep manufacturing strong: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.
Learn more about how manufacturers are leading and about the industry’s competitiveness agenda at nam.org/competing-to-win.
The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12.8 million men and women, contributes $2.77 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 58% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org