Each year, Public Citizen responds to the request by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for “written comments that identify acts, policies, or practices that may form the basis of a country’s identification as a Priority Foreign Country or placement on the Priority Watch List or Watch List.”
This submission draws on our experience providing technical assistance to public agencies, particularly in developing countries, on patent, copyright and other intellectual property (IP) rules to protect access to medicines and knowledge.
In these comments, we discuss the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and treatment rationing, as well as principles we believe should inform the Special 301 process. Then we analyze provisions of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), including flexibilities we believe are sometimes overlooked. We also explore the recent proposal presented by India and South Africa to waive certain TRIPS obligations for the prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19. While more than 100 countries support this waiver, the United States opposes it. That opposition places the U.S. reputation for moral global leadership at risk.