U.S. Commerce Chief testifies before Senate Finance Committee on vaccine waiver

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Washington, May 13 (PTI) Defending the Biden administration’s decision to support a temporary waiver of certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement to deal with COVID-19, as proposed by India and South Africa, a senior US trade official said that the people of India were facing an existential crisis “due to the pandemic.

“ When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, all you have to do is open the newspaper or turn on the television and see the scenes in India and appreciate the reality that we are not going through this pandemic, and that even for those countries that think are in a good position to make things really turn out in no time if you’re not careful, ” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told members of the Commission on Wednesday. Senate Finance Committee during a hearing on COVID-19.

“ So in regards to COVID-19, I would say for the Indian people, for all the people who live in countries where there is less than 2% access to vaccines to date, that it is an existential crisis today. ,’ she said.

The U.S. Trade Representative was responding to questions from senators who were skeptical of the Biden administration’s decision to support India and South Africa’s move to the World Trade Organization.

During the congressional hearing, Senator John Barrasso said he did not agree with the decision of the US president.

“The president called for relinquishing intellectual property rights to vaccines. He called for this because we have a global health crisis. Well, I don’t agree with that ruling of the chair. Very clear about this. At the same time, he made it very clear that this administration believes that we are facing a global climate crisis, ”he said.

In fact, on April 22, the president called on countries to mobilize, to take further action on climate change in order to “overcome” what he described as the existential crisis of our time. He didn’t say the coronavirus was the existential crisis of our time. He said climate change was the existential crisis of our time. But we are ready, the president is ready to give up intellectual property rights on something that is less than the existential crisis of our time, ”said the senator.

Senator Mark Warner, chairman of the Special Senate Committee on Intelligence, however, strongly defended the administration’s decision. Warner is also co-chair of the Senate India Caucus.

“As co-chair of the US-Indian caucus, I believe the humanitarian crisis in India requires extraordinary action. I also believe that there is no more important long-term geopolitical partner in Asia than forging strong ties with India, ”said Warner.

“I think taking action once in a century with a once-in-a-century pandemic is not an indication of a decline in intellectual property rights protection in this country,” he said. he adds.

Senator Elizabeth Warren also supported Tai on this issue. “ Testing, treatment, PPE are essential, and that is why India and South Africa asked for help from around the world seven months ago to make these items without running the risk of a pharmaceutical company is suing them, ” she said.

“ So I think the United States should also support these countries on this point and not try to shy away from helping. Time is also of the essence here. Millions of people die, millions more will die, if it takes another seven months to reach a meaningful agreement, ”said Warren.

Special protections for pharmaceutical companies are an even bigger problem than COVID-19 alone, she said. For years, the US government has let giant corporations write the rules for our international trading system, she noted.

“We are fighting for a waiver of rules that should never have existed at the start,” said Warren.

Responding to another question, Tai said the USTR is committed to a full and good faith effort at the WTO.

“The emphasis is really on promoting equity in vaccines, and we will need to address the concerns of all parties involved and those we need the partnership to achieve some sort of resolution at the WTO. “she said. PTI LKJ IJT



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