20:41 GMT17 May 2021
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    In October 2020, India and South Africa submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organisation to allow member countries to waive intellectual property rights, including patents related to COVID-19 vaccines and other technologies during the pandemic.

    The Biden administration is coming under increasing pressure from US lawmakers, who are calling on POTUS not to support a proposal put forward by India and South Africa before the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to temporarily waive trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights.

    India and South Africa's proposal is aimed at bolstering vaccine production to fight the COVID-19 pandemic raging through nations. 

    As many as 12 members of the US Congress have made a fresh appeal urging the president not to support the proposal being spearheaded by India and supported by at least 60 countries.

    In a letter to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Tuesday, the legislators said that if America gives up intellectual property rights, it will harm innovation and production and lead to fewer people getting vaccinated.

    "The United States should continue to oppose the request by India, South Africa, and other nations", said the letter.

    Led by Congressmen Jim Jordan and Darrell Issa, the US lawmakers said the requested waiver is "extraordinarily broad and unnecessary to accomplish the goals of giving as many people as possible access to vaccines and treatement for COVID-19".

    Among those who signed the letter are Steve Chabot, Louie Gohmert, Matt Gaetz, Mike Johnson, Tom Tiffany, Thomas Massie, Dan Bishop, Michelle Fischbach, Scott Fitzgerald, and Cliff Bentz. The letter claimed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pressed US President Biden to support the waiver during a phone call in early May.

    "Respect for intellectual property rights has been a cornerstone of the US trade policy for decades and should not be set aside lightly", the letter said.

    "The scope of the requested waiver is overbroad and unjustified in light of the economic harm it would cause and the negligible benefits it would provide".

    The lawmakers argued that relevant intellectual property rights have been successfully licensed to expand access to COVID-19 innovations while maintaining IP protections. "For example, the Serum Institute of India has secured licenses to produce multiple vaccines, including [the] AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines", mentioned the letter. 

    "Gifting away our technological leadership and competitive advantage at a time when the US economy remains vulnerable would be irresponsible and send the wrong message to millions of American taxpayers. The damage would extend beyond even the considerable value of COVID-19 vaccines and medicines, also endangering the far greater value of the jobs and economic growth promised by these IP rights and the advanced technologies they represent".

     

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