The Biden administration spoke out on Wednesday in favor of waiver of intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines, a breakthrough for international efforts to suspend patent rules as the pandemic rages in India and South America.
The United States has been a major opponent of a World Trade Organization proposal to suspend intellectual property protections in order to speed up vaccine production. But President Biden had come under increasing pressure to support the proposal, including from many Democrats in Congress.
Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, announced the administration’s position in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” she said. “The administration strongly believes in the protection of intellectual property, but in the service of the end of this pandemic, it supports the waiver of these protections for the Covid-19 vaccines.”
Ms. Tai added that the United States would participate in negotiations at the World Trade Organization on the issue, adding: “These negotiations will take time given the consensual nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues at stake.”
Earlier Wednesday, members of the World Trade Organization held another round of talks on lifting intellectual property protection. Further talks are expected in the coming weeks as India and South Africa, which proposed the waiver, prepare a revised plan for nations to consider.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director general of the World Trade Organization, urged members to continue negotiations on the text of the plan.
“I am firmly convinced that once we can sit down with a real text in front of us, we will find a pragmatic way forward,” she said. said in a meeting of the General Council of the organization.