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Public Citizen Commends Biden Administration’s Support for Limiting WTO Waivers on Buy American Medicine Procurement

To Build Resilience, We Must Increase Domestic Medicine Production and Diversify Import Sources

Contact: Matthew Groch (202) 454-5111, mgroch@citizen.org


Washington, D.C. – Public Citizen commends the Biden Administration for its decision to promote domestic production of essential medicines by proceeding with the withdrawal of essential medicines from the constraints imposed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). Even before the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of current hyperglobalized supply chains, the overconcentration of medicines and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) production in too few facilities and countries was causing essential medicine shortages. (Supporting data is provided in this infographic.)

“Especially after the harsh lessons we have all learned from the COVID pandemic, it’s a smart move to ensure that the U.S. government can invest our tax dollars into rebuilding domestic medicine manufacturing capacity,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Last week, the Biden administration defended the U.S. decision to withdraw from WTO GPA constraints hundreds of essential medicines, active pharmaceutical ingredients, diagnostic tests, ventilators, and PPE that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) listed under a 2020 “Executive Order on Ensuring Essential Medicines, Medical Countermeasures, and Critical Inputs Are Made in the United States.” In late 2020, the USTR submitted a proposal to the WTO to remove the 300 essential medicines and other health products from the GPA. Last week, in support of earlier action, the Biden Administration submitted data to and addressed inquiries of countries also signed on to the WTO’s procurement agreement.

“This is a good first step, but the administration must also exercise authority Congress has provided presidents in domestic law to temporarily waive the trade-pact Buy American exception that will otherwise offshore chunks of the emergency COVID-19 relief and recovery spending,” Wallach said. “Today Buy American means U.S. goods and those from 60 trade-pact partner countries, which is why the Biden administration promised to renegotiate trade-pact procurement terms broadly to restore the ability for the U.S and other countries to invest their tax dollars at home.”

More details on the trade-pact waiver to Buy American procurement policy, including the list of 60 countries subject to this exception, are available in this briefing paper.