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12 Republican Lawmakers Urge Biden To Not Support India At WTO On Covid Vaccines

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12 Republican Lawmakers Urge Biden To Not Support India At WTO On Covid Vaccines


12 Republican Lawmakers Urge Biden To Not Support India At WTO On Covid Vaccines

The letter is in response to the proposal in this regard by 60 developing countries. (File)

Washington:

Twelve Republican lawmakers have urged the Joe Biden administration to not support a proposal by India and South Africa before the World Trade Organisation to temporarily waive some Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules amid the coronavirus pandemic.

If the US gives up intellectual property rights, it will harm innovation and production, and result in fewer people getting vaccinated, the 12 influential Congressmen said in a letter to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Tuesday.

The letter is in response to the proposal in this regard by 60 developing countries, led by India and South Africa.

“The United States should continue to oppose the request by India, South Africa, and other nations to waive certain portions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for all members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO),” the letter said.

Spearheaded by Congressmen Jim Jordan and Darrell Issa, the lawmakers said the requested waiver is extraordinarily broad and unnecessary to accomplish the goal of giving as many people as possible access to vaccines and treatment for COVID-19.

They claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi pressed US President Joe Biden to support the waiver during a phone call in early May.

Among other signatories to the letter are Steve Chabot, Louie Gohmert, Matt Gaetz, Mike Johnson, Tom Tiffany, Thomas Massie, Dan Bishop, Michelle Fischbach, Scott Fitzgerald and Cliff Bentz.

“The justification for the waiver rests on an incorrect assumption that IP rights are a significant bottleneck to the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments,” the letter said.

“The waiver’s sponsors have presented no convincing evidence to support this assertion. Instead, the sponsors mainly just point out that relevant IP rights exist and speculate that those rights could serve as a barrier to access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments – not that IP rights have actually blocked or significantly hindered their availability,” it added.

If anything, the examples of IP ”disputes” cited by the waiver sponsors generally demonstrate that IP rights have not prevented the involved parties from supplying vaccines and other medicines, the letter said.

Respect for intellectual property rights has been a cornerstone of the US trade policy for decades and should not be set aside lightly, the Republican Congressmen said.

“Although some flexibility may be warranted in emergency situations, the waiver of TRIPS IP protections requested by India, South Africa, and other countries would do little to improve public health during this critical period in the COVID-19 pandemic. The scope of the requested waiver is overbroad and unjustified in light of the economic harm it would cause and the negligible benefits it would provide,” they said in the letter.

“Existing aspects of TRIPS and global public health initiatives, along with the existing actions of key IP rights holders and innovators, make the waiver unnecessary. While considerable work can still be done to improve access to COVID-19 medicines and other innovations, that work can be done without the drastic step of suspending IP rights, and significant progress has already been made to address the real obstacles hampering the global COVID-19 response,” they said.

The lawmakers argued that relevant intellectual property rights have been successfully licensed to expand access to COVID-19 innovations while maintaining IP protections. For example, the Serum Institute of India has secured licenses to produce multiple vaccines, including Astrazeneca and Novavax vaccines.

South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare has secured a license to produce the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Several vaccine makers have licensed direct competitors to increase vaccine manufacturing capacity.

Moderna has announced that it would not seek to enforce any of its COVID-related patents against other vaccine makers for the rest of the pandemic and has pledged to license its COVID-19 vaccine patents.

Gilead has licensed nine generic pharmaceutical manufacturers (including in India) to produce its COVID-19 therapeutic drug remdesivir for 127 countries, most of which are developing nations.

Moreover, TRIPS already allows countries to impose compulsory licenses to access vital IP rights, and no country has availed itself of that capability to date for COVID-19 vaccines or treatments, the lawmakers noted.

The proposed waiver is not limited to patents on vaccines or treatments for COVID-19 – the waiver would also gut protections for copyrights, industrial designs (e.g., textile patterns or other ornamental designs), and trade secrets. The waiver’s supporters have only offered vague, unsubstantiated explanations for how waiving IP protections for copyrights or industrial designs would lead to improved vaccine or therapeutics availability, they said.

It is also unclear how a waiver of TRIPS obligations would provide more access to trade secrets and proprietary technologies, which are confidential by definition and typically closely guarded, they said.

“Gifting away our technological leadership and competitive advantage at a time when the US economy remains vulnerable would be irresponsible and send the wrong message to millions of American taxpayers. The damage would extend beyond even the considerable value of COVID-19 vaccines and medicines, also endangering the far greater value of the jobs and economic growth promised by these IP rights and the advanced technologies they represent,” the Republican Congressmen said in the letter.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Over 17.15 Crore Free Covid Vaccine Doses Given To States, UTs: Centre

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Over 17.15 Crore Free Covid Vaccine Doses Given To States, UTs: Centre


Over 17.15 Crore Free Covid Vaccine Doses Given To States, UTs: Centre

Over 28 lakh vaccine doses will be received by the states, UTs in the next 3 days (Representational)

New Delhi:

More than 17.15 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses have been so far provided free of cost to states and union territories, the central government informed on Thursday.

More than 89 lakh doses are still available with the states and UTs to be administered, said the union health ministry in a statement. It also added that over 28 lakh doses, in addition, will be received by the states and UTs in the next three days.

The country had started the COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16 with two vaccines — Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India) and Covaxin (manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited).

The second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive to inoculate people above 60 years and those over 45 with comorbidities against the coronavirus began on March 1. The third phase began on April 1 for all above 45 years of age, while people aging above 18 to 45 became eligible for inoculation in the next phase which commenced on May 1.

The country has been witnessing a massive surge in COVID-19 infections and on Wednesday registered 4,12,262 new cases and 3,980 related deaths, as per the government data.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Day After Terse Note, Home Ministry Team Goes To Bengal To Probe Violence

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Day After Terse Note, Home Ministry Team Goes To Bengal To Probe Violence


Day After Terse Note, Home Ministry Team Goes To Bengal To Probe Violence

The Home Ministry had warned the Bengal government over the post-poll violence.

Highlights

  • Centre has sent a team to Bengal to assess the ground situation
  • The team will be led by an additional secretary of the Home Ministry
  • Home Ministry had warned Bengal government over the post-poll violence

New Delhi:

A day after Mamata Banerjee’s government received a terse warning in a second letter from the centre over the post-poll violence in Bengal, the Union Home Ministry has sent a four-member team to the state to assess the ground situation.

The team, led by an additional secretary of the ministry, has left for Bengal.

Seeking a detailed report on the violence, the Home Ministry had asked the Bengal government to take necessary measures to stop such incidents “without any loss of time”. The letter was sent hours after Ms Banerjee took oath as the Chief Minister for the third straight term.

Since the election verdict on Sunday, there have been clashes in parts of Bengal involving both the Trinamool Congress and the BJP. Both parties have traded blame for the violence.

In his second letter to the state government on Wednesday, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said, “I remind you that no report has been submitted despite my asking for details on post-poll violence on May 3rd. Non-compliance of this second letter would be taken seriously.”

The top Home Ministry official asked the West Bengal Chief Secretary why adequate measures to stop the violence have not been taken so far. “There are fresh reports which suggest that post-poll violence has not stopped. Immediate measures should be taken to stop violence and report regarding the same should be sent immediately,” Mr Bhalla wrote.

Moments after Ms Banerjee’s swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar too sent out a similar message on the violence.

“Our first priority is to bring an end to the senseless, horrendous post-poll violence…I have every hope that the Chief Minister on an urgent basis will take all the steps to restore the rule of law. I have every hope that the Chief Minister, my younger sister, will rise to the occasion,” Mr Dhankhar said, Mamata Banerjee by his side.

Mamata Banerjee had, moments before the Governor’s comments, said her first priority would be to tackle the Covid crisis and she would start off with a meeting with her top officers.

Next on her agenda, she said, was to handle the law and order situation. She has accused the BJP of stirring violence and communal tension after losing the election. On the other hand, the BJP’s top leaders allege that Trinamool Congress workers have murdered its members and set their homes on fire.



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Constitutional Authorities, Stop Complaints On Media Reports: Supreme Court

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Constitutional Authorities, Stop Complaints On Media Reports: Supreme Court


Constitutional Authorities, Stop Complaints On Media Reports: Supreme Court

“It would be retrograde for the Supreme Court to gag media,” the Supreme Court said.

New Delhi:

Constitutional authorities can do better than to complain and ask for fetters on the media, the Supreme Court said today on the Election Commission’s petition complaining about media reports on the Madras High Court telling the poll body it should be booked for murder for not stopping political rallies amid Covid.

“It would be retrograde for the Supreme Court to gag media,” the Supreme Court said.

“We find no substance in prayer of EC to restrain media from reporting court proceedings. It is essential to hold judiciary accountable.” 

The Justice DY Chandrachud-led bench did say the remarks made by the Madras High Court were “harsh and the metaphor improper” and judicial restraint was necessary.

“There is a need for judicial restraint for off the cuff remarks which is open for misinterpretation. Judicial language is important for constitutional ethos. Power of judicial review is so high that it forms a basic structure,” the top court observed. The Election Commission had been conducting free and fair polls, it added.

However, the High Court was faced with rising Covid cases and the task of protecting the lives and liberty of people, the court said.

“Open access to courts is a valuable safeguard to constitutional freedom. Freedom of the press is a facet of constitutional freedom of speech and expression,” said the Supreme Court.

The Election Commission had complained about being “castigated without any evidence” when the Madras High Court reprimanded it on campaigns in the middle of a Covid surge.

The Madras High Court on April 26 said the Election Commission “should probably be booked for murder” for allowing crowded election campaigns and was “singularly responsible” for the current Covid spike. But these observations did not make it to the final order, which said “at no cost can counting become a catalyst for a further surge”.

The Election Commission last week approached the Supreme Court against what it called “blatantly disparaging remarks” and said the media should be stopped from reporting observations. It also said it was the government under the Disaster Management Authority that had to manage the rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chief Minister (E Palaniswami) and “they committed the breach”.

The Supreme Court said: “Something is observed in the larger public interest. The Election Commission should treat it as a bitter pill in the right spirit.”



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