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Biden-Merkel Summit Fail: Pres. Biden Unable to End Germany’s Blockade of COVID WTO TRIPS Waiver He Seeks to End Pandemic

CONTACT: Derrick Robinson, drobinson@citizen.org


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a news conference after their business meetings at the White House. Germany has blocked 140 other nations, including the U.S., that seek an emergency waiver of WTO-enforced intellectual property barriers that limit greater production of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments necessary to save millions of lives. Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach issued the following statement:

“For Merkel to get a high-profile White House victory lap and have Pres. Biden proclaim that she ‘never fails to stand for human dignity’ while Biden has failed to get Merkel to stop blocking the WTO COVID vaccine waiver delivers a punishing blow to efforts to end the pandemic, and it comes in a week when COVID deaths have surged 40% in Africa over the previous week, as the Delta variant is causing terrifying new waves of preventable death throughout the developing world where very few people have access to vaccines or any protection.

“Germany is directly undermining Biden’s notion that the two nations show that ‘democracy is delivering the needs of the people by blocking the will of the majority of people in the world who want a waiver of WTO-enforced monopolies that now empower Big Pharma to limit production of the COVID-19 vaccines and treatments that are necessary to save the lives and livelihoods of millions of people worldwide. That means the mRNA vaccine technology that currently only the U.S. and Germany have approved is inaccessible to most in the world while non-democracies China and Russia are sharing their vaccine technology and financing new COVID manufacturing plants around the world.

“People around the world dying for lack of vaccines were relying on Biden to get Merkel to stop blocking the waiver given that he promised that if elected president, he wouldn’t allow Big Pharma monopolies to block global vaccine and treatment access. Biden’s inability to get Merkel to join him in supporting the waiver means tens of millions of lives and livelihoods worldwide are left in peril, including here, given that raging COVID outbreaks anywhere increase the chances for a vaccine-resistant strain emerging. We urge the president to redouble his efforts to get the waiver enacted.

“With his support for the waiver, Biden showed the world the U.S. was back, but to show global leadership, Biden had to get Germany to stop blocking what he says is a U.S. priority to save tens of millions of lives. This summit was a failure, and we urge Biden to prioritize getting the WTO waiver enacted ASAP so more COVID vaccines and treatments can be produced worldwide.

“Biden’s failure to move Merkel on the COVID vaccine waiver means he has a lot more work to do to end the pandemic, and as far Merkel, the world expected her to be leading with Biden, South Africa’s and France’s presidents and India’s Prime Minister to unlock the greater global vaccine and treatment production worldwide necessary to stop the pandemic, not blocking the rest of the world and threatening to replace her refugee-crisis-legacy as a humanitarian with the image of a Big Pharma shill prioritizing corporate monopolies over millions of people’s lives.”

Merkel’s U.S. visit was met with dozens of  protests organized by Public Citizen, Citizens Trade Campaign and allied organization, including the chancellor being directly challenged by protestors as she arrived for an honorary degree at Johns Hopkins that students petitioned against given her waiver opposition, a White House banner lift before she arrived and die-in the day of the summit, a major New York city protest with hundreds at the German UN mission and protests at more than a dozen German consulates nationwide. Heads of major U.S. organizations wrote to Biden and spoke at a press conference to urge him to exert U.S. leadership at the summit and resolve the German blockade. A request by members of the U.S. House of Representatives for a meeting with Merkel on the issue was rejected.