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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

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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IDF says demolished building that housed Al Jazeera was used by Hamas

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The Israel Defense Forces have issued a statement over the demolition of the Al Jalaa Building that housed the offices of Al Jazeera and other international media houses. The IDF has said that the building was being used by Islamic terror group Hamas, making it a valid military target.

The IDF said on social media, “Hamas has turned residential areas in the Gaza Strip into military strongholds. It uses tall buildings in Gaza for multiple military purposes such as intelligence gathering, planning attacks, command and control, and communications.”

Source: Twitter

“When Hamas uses a tall building for military purposes, it becomes a lawful military target,” it added. It stated further, “The Israel Defense Forces struck a number of such buildings in recent days, but before we did so, we took steps to try and ensure that civilians would not be harmed.”

Significantly, the IDF said, “All the multi-story buildings targeted by the IDF were used for military purposes within each building.”

Earlier, Israel had demolished the Al Jalaa building that housed the offices of Al Jazeera and other international media houses. A warning had been provided one hour prior to the demolition. The demolition comes during a phase of heightened tensions between Israel and Palestine.

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12 Killed, Over 300 Injured in Tornado Strikes in China’s Wuhan and Suzhou Cities

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Twelve people were killed and over 300 injured when two powerful tornadoes walloped Chinese cities of Wuhan and Suzhou on Friday night, leaving a trail of destruction of houses and factories. Eight people were killed and over 230 injured when a tornado, packing winds of 23.9 meters per second, ripped through the Caidian District of Wuhan on Friday night, toppling some construction site sheds and snapping a large number of trees.

The tornado collapsed 27 houses, while another 130 were damaged. Two tower cranes and 8,000 square meters of construction site sheds also suffered damage, state run Xinhua news agency reported.

The tornado blew down power lines, triggering a power outage that has affected 26,600 households in Wuhan. The local power grid has sent staff to fix the glitches and repair works are still going on.

Four people were killed and 19 others injured after a tornado hit the city of Suzhou in east China’s Jiangsu Province on Friday, according to local authorities.

In Suzhou, the tornado damaged 84 households and 17 companies. It also caused power outages, the bureau added.

The tornadoes came as a surprise to the locals as it is quite rare in the region.

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On Day of Eid, Muslim Youths in Bhopal Help Poor Hindu Man Cremate His Mother

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As people across the country celebrated Eid on Friday, some Muslim youths in Bhopal helped out a Hindu man whose mother had succumbed to an illness even as most of the people decided to stay away for fear of contracting COVID-19. The only son of the family was clueless when his 80-year-old ailing mother died on Friday and no one came forward to help him.

The Muslim youths not only helped the man cremate his mother but also helped him arrange an ambulance for taking the body to local crematorium. The incident happened in Muslim dominated Koh-e-Fiza area of Bhopal.

Locals were busy in Eid preparations after offering Namaz when they learnt that Sundariya Bai, a Chhattisgarh native, died after prolonged illness. The woman used to live with her son in a shanty. The son, who works as a labourer, had no money to cremate his mother.

On learning about his situation, local youths arranged an ambulance to take the body to Chhola crematorium, and also bore the expenses of the last rites performed in accordance with the Hindu tradition.

Md. Saddam, one of the youths who helped in carrying the body, told News18 that religion only preaches one to help other irrespective of religious lines. By sharing someone’s sorrow on Eid, we only engaged in ibadat, he added. Naheen Khan, another local who was engaged in the kind act, claimed that humanity was the biggest religion which they try practicing on Eid.

(With Inputs from Jitendra Sharma)

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