Law expert says historic trade waiver for COVID-19 crisis can save lives
6th May 2021
QUT leading law expert Professor Matthew Rimmer says today’s announcement by the US to waive intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines is an “an important corrective to vaccine nationalism and corporate profiteering”.
Professor Rimmer, who has two decades’ experience on the legalities of intellectual property and access to essential medicines, said the US decision should help break a deadlock in the World Trade Organisation and put pressure on Australia to reconsider its position.
The United States Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai announced this morning the Biden-Harris Administration supported waiving intellectual property protection in respect of COVID-19 vaccines.
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” she said in a statement via Twitter.
The Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) move is expected to boost global supply and access to life-saving vaccinations, particularly in poorer countries.
South Africa and India initially put forward a proposal in the World Trade Organisation for a TRIPS Waiver to temporarily suspend intellectual property norms during the COVID-19 crisis.
Professor Rimmer said today’s decision by the US to support the TRIPS Waiver represented a historic, landmark achievement.
“After a period of isolationism under the Trump Administration, the Biden-Harris Administration is showing real leadership, co-operation, and solidarity in respect of global public health,” he said.
“While he has a long history of supporting strong intellectual property, President Joe Biden has been keenly sensitive to the public health tragedy of COVID-19 and his ambassador Katharine Tai has emphasized the administration’s aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible.”
Professor Rimmer said it would be interesting to see the scope, form, and duration of the final text of the TRIPS Waiver.
“The TRIPS Waiver will help boost vaccine manufacturing and distribution and will help save lives around the world,” he said.
“In some ways, it echoes the Doha Declaration 2001 and the WTO General Council Decision 2003 — which were issued in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.”
Professor Rimmer said it was timely for the Morrison Government to reconsider its stance on the TRIPS Waiver, given the shift in position of the United States.
“Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously discussed the importance of the global sharing of vaccines. A number of Australian Nobel Laureates, including Brian Schmidt, Elizabeth Blackburn, and Peter Doherty, have supported the proposal for a People’s Vaccine under a TRIPS Waiver.”
Professor Rimmer also said there would also be increasing pressure upon the European Union to honour its previous statements that vaccines should be treated as a global public good.
Debra Nowland, QUT Media, 07 3138 3151 (Mon/Wed/Thurs) or firstname.lastname@example.org
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