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Nunes Op-Ed: Biden’s Vaccine Patent Waiver Aids China’s Race to Beat U.S. in Innovation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of Ambassador Tai’s appearance before the Ways and Means Committee on President Biden’s 2021 trade agenda, Republican leader of the Subcommittee on Health Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) penned an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, where he outlined how President Biden’s COVID-19 patent waiver benefits China at the expense of American innovation.

Rep. Nunes wrote:

“The mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines represents unique technology developed through billions of dollars of investments from the companies themselves as well as U.S. taxpayers. The technology may have wide-ranging applications aside from its use as a COVID-19 vaccine.

“What possible benefit is there in allowing Beijing to leapfrog the entire research and development phase that we underwent at a huge expense?”

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Free-Enterprise Works: Thanks to American ingenuity and hardworking taxpayer dollars, the U.S. has quickly developed and distributed lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines.
  • President Biden is Giving China A Free Pass at the Expense of American Free-Enterprise: American developers will now be forced to hand over the groundbreaking technology that allowed the development of these life-saving vaccines to foreign competitors like China.
  • Waiving Patent Rights Sabotages Future Medical Innovation: Waiving the patents on these vaccines will disincentivize future investment and development of vaccines and treatments.
  • It Won’t Work: It will take manufacturers many months, possibly years, to build the facilities to produce vaccines even with the intellectual property that Biden is forcing innovators to give away.

Read the full op-ed HERE and below:

Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver would benefit China

Washington Examiner

Rep. Nunes

May 12, 2021

The record-breaking development of COVID-19 vaccines is a marvel of modern medicine, American ingenuity, and free enterprise. The vaccines saved thousands of lives, prevented countless sicknesses, and have already come close to ending the pandemic in America.

Since we will surely face another pandemic someday, we should be doing everything in our power to preserve and enhance the innovative environment that facilitated such amazing breakthroughs. Instead, the Biden administration is doing the opposite — it is supporting a waiver proposed at the World Trade Organization that would strip developers of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics of their intellectual property rights and force them to teach their foreign competitors how to make these groundbreaking products.

The waiver will create obvious disincentives to the fast development of successful future vaccines. Developers will be more reluctant to make fast, huge investments in novel research if they believe, or even suspect, that the U.S. government will place onerous demands on them after they produce reasonably priced vaccines.

Consider the implications with respect to just one nation: China. Ruled by the Communist Party, China is a brutal authoritarian state that seeks to gain international power at the expense of the free world in general and the United States in particular. Unable to compete with American innovation, Beijing conducts a massive program to pilfer American innovation, technology, and trade secrets shamelessly through cybercrime, industrial espionage, infiltration of U.S. higher education institutions, and forced technology transfers from U.S. firms operating in China.

As detailed in the regime’s Made in China 2025 plan, Beijing aims to displace America as the world leader in biotechnology, a goal it pursues by stealing and copying others’ innovations. In fact, last July, the Department of Justice indicted two Chinese nationals for stealing trade secrets and hacking into the computers of, among other victims, U.S. firms working to develop COVID-19 vaccines. But with the Biden waiver, China won’t even have to bother stealing this proprietary information anymore. Instead, President Joe Biden will force the American developers to hand it over.

It’s hard to imagine a more self-defeating or unjust policy. What does the public have to gain from penalizing American vaccine developers, disincentivizing future vaccines and treatments, and empowering our chief geostrategic rival, which birthed the pandemic in the first place and tried to cover it up?

The proprietary information at issue here is sensitive and promising. The mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines represents unique technology developed through billions of dollars of investments from the companies themselves as well as U.S. taxpayers. The technology may have wide-ranging applications aside from its use as a COVID-19 vaccine. What possible benefit is there in allowing Beijing to leapfrog the entire research and development phase that we underwent at a huge expense?

It’s hard to say whether Biden’s decision stems from pressure from the Democrats’ socialist wing or an affinity for meaningless virtue-signaling. But it’s clear this action will do nothing to help spread vaccinations to countries in need. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, warns that gambits such as the Biden waiver could backfire, and he points to other ways to increase international vaccine distribution. One possibility would be for the U.S. government to fund a large-scale effort to acquire vaccine doses and distribute them internationally as a form of foreign aid. Although expensive, this course of action has the fairly significant benefit of not selling out our most innovative, lifesaving developers to Communist China.

Moreover, it will take manufacturers many months, possibly years, to build the facilities to produce vaccines even with the intellectual property that Biden is forcing innovators to give away. So it won’t address the short-term problem of vaccine availability now, and it will discourage innovation in the future.

Instead of sabotaging our most effective medical firms, we should incentivize more American innovation and encourage developers to invest even more in developing the next miracle cure. But if we expect these companies to take the enormous risk of spending billions on these efforts, they need to know the U.S. government will not legalize the theft of their final products. The time to bolster American technology is now because our scientists and our patients, not the Chinese Communist Party, are the rightful future of modern medicine.

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