U.S. trade chief Tai says ‘time is of the essence’ in addressing vaccine waiver at WTO

PUBLISHED: Wed, 05 May 2021 16:23:29 GMT
David Lawder and Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 25: Katherine Tai , nominee for US Trade Representative speaks at the Senate Finance Committee hearing at the US Capitol on February 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. Katherine Tai is President Joe Bidens pick for US Trade Representative. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, May 5 (Reuters) – U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Wednesday underscored the urgency of increasing COVID-19 vaccine supplies worldwide and addressing a proposal to waive some intellectual property rights under global trade rules given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tai told a Financial Times event that all of her actions with regard to the vaccine issue are being made through a lens of increasing access and “saving lives” – including how the United States approaches demands from India, South Africa and other developing countries to waive intellectual property rights associated with vaccines.

The proposed waiver, which has been opposed by the United States and a handful of other countries with big pharmaceutical industries as too broad, is expected to be discussed at a World Trade Organization’s General Council on Wednesday.

“As with everything in this pandemic, time is of the essence,” Tai told the FT event when asked about the timing of a decision on the waiver proposed by India and South Africa.

Tai on Tuesday said that making vaccines more widely available throughout the world is needed to end the pandemic and foster economic recovery. A majority of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have now urged President Joe Biden’s administration to support the waiver.

(Reporting by David Lawder and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Steve Orlofsky)

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