A group of Republican senators sought to block U.S. support for an IP waiver for Covid-19 vaccines, a proposal that is strongly opposed by the pharmaceutical industry.

By David Moore, Sludge

In October 2020, India and South Africa issued a landmark proposal at the World Trade Organization that parts of its Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement be waived during the pandemic so that the intellectual property behind Covid-19 treatments could be shared freely to scale up production of life-saving vaccines.

The Biden administration eventually stated its support for a TRIPS waiver in early May, but has since stood passively by, declining to advance the proposal in recent WTO meetings. Covid-19 vaccine recipes and technologies of treatments like Moderna’s, developed with the co-participation of the National Institute of Health, have still not been shared with other countries, and in the past few months the Omicron variant has emerged and spread while vaccinations rates remain low in many parts of the world.

The Biden administration’s statement in favor of a TRIPS waiver received immediate pushback from Republicans in Congress. On May 20, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Committee on Finance, which has jurisdiction over reciprocal trade agreements, filed an amendment that sought to make it harder for the U.S. to agree to waive the TRIPS Agreement for Covid-19 vaccines.

Mike Crapo next to a money stack and a hand holding a syringe
Photo by Marco Verch

The amendment would have required an evaluation process among U.S. departments and congressional approval for any TRIPS waiver, seeking assurances it would not extend to Russia or China, which it posed as threats to U.S. intellectual property. “I am concerned the Administration did not—because it could not—provide any evidentiary support for its claim that a waiver would facilitate access,” Crapo said.

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COVID-19 Global Solidarity Manifesto To: Policy Makers

Petition Text

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the urgency of changing global structures of inequity and violence. We, people around the world, will seize this historical moment. We are building solidarity at every level: local, national, global. Despite the need to physically distance, we are building mutual aid groups, community networks, and social movements. We declare this manifesto today to offer a vision of the world we are building, the world we are demanding, the world we will achieve.

1. We demand strong, universal health care systems and health care as a basic right for all humans.

2. We demand an immediate global ceasefire in all conflicts and an end to the disease of war. We demand that every nation move at least half its military spending to provide health care, housing, childcare, nutrition, education, Internet access, and other social needs so we can truly protect people’s physical, psychological, and economic security, including through the closure of foreign military bases, the cessation of military exercises, and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

3. We demand that unsustainable capitalist economies, based on the fantasy of endless growth, be replaced with cooperatively based economies of care, where human life, biodiversity, and our natural resources are conserved and a universal basic income is guaranteed so that governments can work together to combat the existential threat of climate change.

4. We demand an immediate lifting of all sanctions targeting entire nations, which are impoverishing vulnerable populations and killing people by blocking access to medicines and medical supplies.

5. We demand that all workers be protected against COVID-19 and have their long-term occupational health, economic, and labor rights guaranteed.

6. We demand the full protection of all people, especially the most vulnerable, including women and other victims of intimate partner violence and child abuse, the elderly, the impoverished, prisoners and detainees, refugees and other displaced peoples, migrants regardless of immigration status, the homeless, LGBTQIA+ individuals, racial/ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, and those disability or ability challenged, among others.

7. We demand that wealthy nations live up to their responsibility to provide medical aid (including through the World Health Organization) and debt relief to save lives in countries without strong public health systems because of long histories of colonialism, neocolonialism, and other exploitation, foreign and domestic.

8. We demand that governments and corporations respect privacy and not exploit the pandemic to expand repressive measures such as surveillance, detention without trial, and restrictions on basic human rights to assembly, free expression, self-determination, and the vote.

9. We demand that when governments implement economic stimulus programs and re-open their economies they prioritize the needs of people over the interests of corporate, financial, and political elites.

In a world where the gap between rich and poor is obscene, with the world’s richest 1% having more than twice the wealth of 6.9 billion people, a fundamental redistribution of wealth and power globally and within nations is imperative. Every human being must have the opportunity to live a healthy, creative, and fulfilling life, free of the ravages of poverty, exploitation, and domination.

Why is this important?

A group of around 50 people from more than 12 countries drafted the Manifesto in recent weeks. Many prominent people are supporting it. People in general are more awake to the absurdity of a planet in which the richest 8 people have more wealth than the poorest 3.8 billion than ever before as this pandemic spreads. We are circulating this widely in multiple languages to help frame the debate and actions moving forward, raising global demands that address the inequity resulting from decades of neoliberal economic policies and rampant and unbridled militarism.