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U.S. lawmakers ask for meeting on WTO waiver with Merkel during Washington visit

WASHINGTON – Nine Democratic U.S. lawmakers on Monday urged Germany to drop its “blockade” of a COVID-19 related waiver of intellectual property rights under global trade rules, and asked Chancellor Angela Merkel to meet with them during her visit to Washington.

Representative Jan Schakowsky, part of the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives; Representative Earl Blumenauer, who leads the trade subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee; and the other lawmakers said they were troubled that Germany was leading EU opposition to a proposed waiver being discussed at the World Trade Organization.

“The United States and almost every other WTO member seeks to enact a COVID emergency temporary TRIPS waiver as quickly as possible,” they wrote in a letter to German Ambassador Emily Haber, adding that production of COVID-19 vaccines must be increased to save millions of lives.

“Thanks to IP barriers, it is the U.S. and German firms that have the only approved COVID-19 mRNA vaccines that hold the monopoly power to decide if this scale-up will occur,” they wrote.

The German embassy had no immediate comment.

Biden administration officials say the waiver will help boost global production of coronavirus vaccines. German officials and pharmaceutical companies have argued that companies invested their own funds to develop vaccines and that waiving their IP rights would undermine such work in the future.

Merkel will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday for a wide-ranging discussion that will touch on the global response to the pandemic and the proposed waiver of IP rights, a senior administration official said on Monday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said that the president was a “strong proponent” of the waiver, but that it was just one of several tools that could be used to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates around the world.

Supporters of the waiver plan various protests during Merkel’s visit to Washington, including a “die-in” near the White House and a giant Merkel puppet on Thursday, organizers said. – Reuters

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