Trade restrictions are delaying the COVID response. The WTO must act
Together with Thaddeus Burns, Innovation Council member Merck LF, Jennifer Brant has co-authored a paper on the delay in the COVID response caused by trade restrictions and explains why the WTO must act. The human costs of the pandemic, already dire, continue to mount. Vaccines against COVID have been developed at an unprecedented pace through a series of unprecedented partnerships. But this is not the end of the story; there is still an urgent need to expand vaccine protection worldwide, including through the expansion of biologic drug production capacity.
The Big Secret Behind the Proposed TRIPS Waiver
James Pooley, former Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), describes in this article how TRIPS only creates obligations for governments to pass laws supporting intellectual property rights of certain kinds: patents, copyrights, designs, trademarks, and trade secrets. Importantly, it doesn’t affect the private ownership of those rights. This is an important distinction, especially for trade secrets (or “undisclosed information” as they are called in TRIPS), because, unlike the other “registered” rights, they don’t depend for their existence on government certification. Rather, trade secrets only require a legal system that enforces confidentiality. Furthermore, although patents usually steal the limelight in conversations about “technology transfer,” the truth is that they are only a part of most technology transfer stories. After all, in order to actually build the factory and produce the goods, you need to know more than what’s in the patents.
Building a Culture of Trade Secret Protection
Craig Moss, Executive Vice President of Ethisphere, explains in this video that protecting your company’s ‘crown jewels’—namely, intellectual property—effectively needs to be more than simply signing non-disclosure agreements and marking documents as confidential. This is especially true today, since more and more companies are going through a digital transformation.
Policy discussions and actions related to the COVID-19 pandemic
Below we’ve provided a round-up of recent developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Policymakers are working to identify and execute the best policies for pandemic preparedness and healthcare delivery, against a difficult backdrop. Innovators and other actors must step forward to provide their insights and experiences on the ground, whether in relation to IP, trade, regulatory or other types of policies.
African Union backs call to waive IP rights on COVID-19 drugs
The African Union is backing calls for drugmakers to waive some intellectual property rights on COVID-19 medicines and vaccines to speed up their rollout to poor countries.
Senator calls on Biden to reject COVID IP waiver
Thom Tillis, ranking member of the senate IP subcommittee, has urged US president Joe Biden to oppose ‘harmful’ proposals to waive rights related to COVID-19 vaccines currently in discussions at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
U.S. Chamber opposes WTO waiver of vaccine intellectual property rights
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it opposed calls for the World Trade Organization to back a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights to speed coronavirus vaccine production in poor countries, calling them “misguided”.
U.S. Extends Tariff Exclusion on China Virus Supplies 6 Months
The U.S. is extending exclusions on tariffs for face masks, cleaning supplies and other personal protective equipment from China for six months, providing protection against higher costs as the nation fights the Covid-19 pandemic.
The move affects 99 different products, according to a draft of the notice by the U.S. Trade Representative seen by Bloomberg News. The exclusions, extended in December, will now run through the end of September 2021.
UNCTAD Paper Examines Linkages Between Non-Tariff Measures and SDGs
According to this paper, of all the NTMs adopted in response to the pandemic, almost 60 per cent were put in place to ensure adequate and affordable domestic supplies of medical goods and other essential items to combat the virus.
To minimize potential adverse impacts on trade and sustainability, the paper recommends policymakers first consider whether an NTM is needed or whether there are alternatives, then design high-quality NTMs where they are needed and implement them strategically with full transparency to inform other countries and the private sector of the measure.
EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement: Implications for Life Sciences Companies
The widely anticipated EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (the Agreement) came into effect on 1 January 2021 after several difficult months of negotiations. The Agreement aims to ease trade barriers resulting from the UK leaving the EU and includes positive developments for life sciences companies. However, according to this article, the Agreement does not address all of the concerns raised by the life sciences industry, and significant gaps and areas for further discussion remain between the EU and the UK as the Agreement is implemented. This Client Alert from 03 March 2021 sets out key aspects of the Agreement for life sciences companies.
Bio-Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and R&D: The Impact of Policy Coherence in Trade Policy
This Innovation Council working paper illustrates the importance of policy coherence in the realm of biopharmaceutical manufacturing and R&D. Specifically, it shows that investing in diversified, geographically dispersed sources of R&D and production can increase manufacturing capacity and strengthen health security by complementing existing pharmaceutical production chains, thus making them less vulnerable to future supply chain shocks. It shows that counterproductive trade measures, such as tariffs on the development and production of vaccines and other health technologies, can slow development, and that—especially in light of the experience of Covid-19—distributed manufacturing and R&D capabilities are particularly useful in the area of biopharmaceuticals.
Trade in the time of pandemics
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first female and first African leader of the World Trade Organization (WTO) argues why trade will help us find a way out of the pandemic with borders closed and global travel constrained.
The multilateral trading system is fundamental to fighting the current COVID-19 pandemic, preparing for future pandemics, and stimulating the global economic recovery. Trade barriers distort markets and create an uneven playing field, with the potential to reduce production when increased supplies are needed. To ensure that the multilateral trading system works smoothly and flexibly during a moment of global crisis, the WTO should play a more active facilitation role. It should work in close partnership with other relevant international organizations such as WHO, COVAX and the International Finance Institutions (IFIs) — to provide solutions to the pandemic.
Expectations rise for China-US health cooperation
In their 2021 annual letter themed ‘the year global health went local’ released by Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, they are reviewing the epidemic in 2020 and addressing the future.
Gates stressed that cooperation between China and the US is critical to combating the pandemic, including ending the current pandemic and preventing the next one, while he pointed to China’s continuing technological advances, improving regulatory capabilities and a growing willingness to help the world.
Roberta Lipson, founder of United Family Healthcare, agreed that there is plenty of room for cooperation between China and the US, first and foremost in healthcare amid the epidemic’s hardships. High tariffs make the use of imported products more costly for both countries, said Lipson, adding that elimination or reduction of these duties would give patients in both countries access to the most suitable products at reduced costs.
“Opening the market for leading-edge therapies and medicines will also benefit from level playing fields in central procurement as well as reliable intellectual property rights protection,” said Lipson.
Semiconductors & the WTO
This report by the Semiconductor Industry Association argues that the steady opening of markets and leveling of the global playing field spearheaded by the WTO over the past 25 years has been critical to the success of the global semiconductor industry. Given the sheer volume and complexity of global semiconductor trade, along with high capital costs and short product life-cycles, the ability to move semiconductor goods and materials freely, fairly, and efficiently across borders has been critical to the industry’s success and technological progress.
Vaccine manufacturing and distribution: WTO perspectives
Around the world, multiple vaccines against COVID-19 are on track for regulatory approval. Arriving at safe, efficacious vaccines of consistent quality will be a major scientific achievement. No less a feat will be manufacturing and delivering COVID-19 vaccines globally – a challenge of unparalleled scale, reach, and complexity. This checklist from the WTO breaks down the regulatory, IP-related, and trade-related concerns that must be considered at each step, from development to distribution. This accompanying infographic illustrates these steps visually.