Americans are tired of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) getting a pass in world affairs. And why shouldn’t they be? For the past two years, the CCP has been a threat on the world stage. They have dodged any semblance of responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic by rejecting demands from the international community to discern the true origin of the virus. They have proven to be a growing threat to America’s allies in the Pacific, both politically and militarily. They have also openly denied the ongoing, state-sponsored genocide of minority populations across China, despite recently leaked Xinjiang police records that reveal such horrific human rights abuses.
So why should we offer China and other countries intellectual property (IP) rights to COVID-19 vaccines developed in the United States? India and South Africa – with the backing of the CCP and the Biden administration – have offered to do just that by waiving certain provisions of the Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights Aspects (TRIPS) of the United States. World Trade Organization (WTO).
While the Biden administration offers a compromise, in which it claims that China would be excluded from the patent waiver, there is still nothing preventing China from obtaining intellectual property from other countries included in the waiver.
Regardless of your opinion on whether or not to take a COVID-19 vaccine, anyone who appreciates the concept of property rights should oppose this WTO proposal. Abandoning the TRIPS agreement would set a terrible precedent.
Property rights are the cornerstone of free societies in which everyone is entitled to the fruits of their labor. It is a safeguard against theft and state intrusion, because intellectual property rights provide a remedy under the rule of law. Intellectual property rights and protection are therefore essential to economic development and are the hallmark of American ingenuity and progress.
The waiver of intellectual property rights under the TRIPS Agreement would have a chilling effect on the domestic development of life-saving treatments and medicines in the future. If an American company loses its guarantee of a return on its own investment, where is the incentive to innovate and create new products in the future?
If the Biden administration accepts this proposal, it will seriously harm the American economy and American workers. Intellectual property rights are necessary for the proper functioning of American businesses, and industries dependent on intellectual property accounted for more than 40% of American GDP in 2019, while employing about a third of the American workforce. What happens when Chinese companies flood the market and undermine American companies? American businesses and American workers are suffering.
We’ve seen this before when it comes to products like solar panels, which rely on rare earth minerals. China deliberately crushed the rare earth mineral market to ensure market dominance. Why should we risk the same thing happening when it comes to American healthcare innovations?
In addition to setting a terrible precedent for the development of future treatments and drugs, waiving the protections of the TRIPS Agreement would allow geopolitical enemies like China easy access to sensitive information belonging to American companies. The CCP is well known for its history of stealing intellectual property, whether for military technology or commercial products, so why should the Biden administration pave the way for them by granting them access to n 1 of the United States, our intellectual property? ?
Proponents of disseminating vaccine-related intellectual property say they do so in order to bolster COVID-19 vaccine stocks around the world. This is not necessary, as companies around the world have already built up large stocks of vaccines. At the same time, demand for vaccines has slowed. We are no longer at the end of 2020; there is no need for a massive industry recalibration to produce additional COVID-19 vaccines.
Property rights are the key to a healthy and free society, as well as to economic progress. Intellectual property rights are no different. Giving up intellectual property and giving extra production capacity to bad actors like the CCP is not helping to end the pandemic. Instead, it only serves to weaken the United States economically and politically. We cannot set this precedent, and the Biden administration must stop supporting this disastrous WTO proposal.
Adam Brandon is the president of FreedomWorks.