Press Release: U.S. Labor, Health, Human Rights, Faith and Other Organizations Call On President Biden to Increase Access to COVID Treatments and Tests Now Limited by Trade-Pact Monopoly Privileges for Big Pharma

Declare Trade Ceasefire on COVID Access to Medicines Policies and Extend June WTO COVID Decision to Cover Treatments and Tests, a Large Coalition of Groups Urge

Washington, D.C.The American Federation of Teachers, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, MoveOn, Indivisible, Public Citizen, Citizen Trade Campaign, Rethink Trade and dozens of other labor, faith, consumer and other groups today called on President Biden to ensure intellectual property (IP) barriers do not continue to stand in the way of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. “Immediate U.S. support will make the difference in the June 17 WTO TRIPS decision being extended to diagnostics and therapeutics,” the letter notes.

The groups urged the president to promptly endorse the extension of the June 17 World Trade Organization (WTO) Decision on COVID and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) to cover treatments and diagnostic tests. “Immediate U.S. support will make the difference in the June 17 WTO TRIPS decision being extended to diagnostics and therapeutics,” the letter notes.

The groups called on the president to support countries using all available WTO IP flexibilities by committing to a “ceasefire” of not using trade sanctions or challenges against countries enacting policies to increase medicine access:

“We were deeply disappointed that a comprehensive IP waiver, which could have enabled greater access to affordable COVID-19 medical tools for all who need them, was not agreed at the mid-June WTO Ministerial. Instead, the June 17, 2022 WTO Decision on the TRIPS Agreement largely restates the WTO’s existing flexibilities that allow countries to issue compulsory licenses on medical tools while adding some new limitations. While the June 17 Decision could make it easier for countries to export vaccines made under compulsory licenses, it does not apply to the COVID-19 treatments and tests that would be easiest to produce under such licensing. However, the text requires countries to decide whether to extend it to those medical products “no later than six months from the date of the Decision.”    

We urge you to immediately announce U.S. support for extending the June 17 WTO Decision on the TRIPS Agreement to treatments and diagnostic tests mutatis mutandis (without further changes). Doing so can help prevent needless disease progression and death from SARS-COV-2…


We also urge you to announce U.S. support for countries using the WTO flexibilities. This should include a pledge that the U.S. government will not pressure or threaten countries who do adopt or use WTO flexibilities, file trade enforcement cases against them at the WTO or under U.S. free trade agreements (FTA), list such actions in the annual “Special 301” report, or otherwise threaten trade sanctions, withdrawal of trade preferences, or any other diplomatic or trade pressure to deter countries from adopting or using such TRIPS-compliant measures…The U.S. should also withdraw consent to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) challenges related to access to COVID-19 medicines and medical tools so pharmaceutical corporations cannot use U.S. FTAs and investment treaties to attack such measures….”

The letter and the list of full signers can be found here

Rethink Trade is a program of the American Economic Liberties Project.

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