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Biden Administration Should Not Delay Support for Waiver of WTO Rules That Limit Access to COVID Tests, Treatments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced today that it intends to delay for six months a decision on whether to support a waiver of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) intellectual property protections for COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics. Melinda St. Louis, Global Trade Watch director at Public Citizen, issued the following statement:

“Delaying the decision for another six months – when a basic waiver of intellectual property barriers to COVID medical technologies should have been delivered on Day One – is unacceptable when so many lives continue to be at stake.

“Expanding the WTO’s June decision to cover tests and treatments is the administration’s best opportunity to deliver meaningful results for global public health after its historic May 2021 decision to support waiving WTO intellectual property barriers in response to the pandemic. The WTO’s June ministerial declaration was watered down to the point of uselessness for vaccine production, but if extended to tests and treatments, it could actually make a difference in expanding affordable production of these key medicines across the developing world.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticized USTR’s delay for other reasons, crying their tired, crocodile tears, claiming that even suggesting that IP is a barrier to medicines access is heresy. The Chamber’s hysteria also underscores that it believes that expanding this WTO decision to tests and treatments would expand generic production of COVID medicines. The public health imperative is clear. The administration should support this waiver without additional delay.”