Aid And Development, Alexander De Croo

EU pushes back on Biden plan to waive coronavirus vaccine patents

Leaders point finger at US and UK as geopolitical contest heats up.

5/8/2021 10:00:00 PM
Aid And Development, Alexander De Croo, Andrej Plenković, António Costa, Antony Blinken, Balkans, Business And Competition, Charles Michel, China, Diplomacy, Eastern Partnership, Emmanuel Macron, Exports, India, Intellectual Property, Joe Biden, Manufacturing, Narendra Modi, Patents, Pharma, Portugal, Rights, Russia, Single Market, Technology, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Ursula Von Der Leyen, Vaccines

EU leaders have a question for President Biden about waiving vaccine patents: So, how exactly is this going to go, Joe?

Leaders point finger at US and UK as geopolitical contest heats up.

Joe Biden may have initiallyset Europe on its heelswith his surprise proposal to suspend intellectual property rights, but at a European Council summit in Porto, Portugal, top EU officials pushed back hard, saying Washington has not put forward a specific plan and that, in the near term, waiving patents would not help with the immediate, urgent need to increase production in poorer countries.  

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“On the intellectual property, we don’t think in the short term that it’s the magic bullet but we are ready to engage on this topic as soon as a concrete proposal will be put on the table,” European Council President Charles Michel said Saturday morning, summarizing a roughly three-hour dinner discussion among leaders on Friday night about the pandemic.

French President Emmanuel Macron was even more pointed in calling on the U.S. and the U.K. first to take more important steps: ending de facto bans on vaccine exports; sharing technology needed to ramp up production; and donating existing doses."The Anglo-Saxons must first stop their export bans," Macron said, in reference to the U.S. and the U.K., and he pointedly accused Washington's policies of obstructing some companies from manufacturing doses."I am calling very clearly on the U.S. to end their export ban of vaccines and components that prevent production," he said."CureVac says it can't produce in Europe because components are blocked in the U.S. … So lift the export ban — lift it, on the ingredients and the vaccines. And, secondly, liberate the doses."

Waiving patents, the French president said, should be fourth on the list of priorities. “If we want to work quickly, today there isn’t one factory in the world that can’t produce doses for poor countries because of intellectual property,” Macron said, arriving for the Saturday session of the summit. “The priority today is not intellectual property — it’s not true. We would be lying to ourselves. It’s production.”

Companies that want to produce vaccines using a waiver acknowledge that a change in intellectual property rules would not mean they could instantly start churning out doses. But they say it would be a key step in allowing more manufacturers to make the vaccines. Some EU leaders, however, said such a move would punish the companies that developed the inoculations that stand to save many millions of lives.

"I don’t believe that the waiver of patents is a solution to provide vaccines for more people,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who participated in the summit by videolink. “Instead, I believe that we need the creativity and innovative force of companies, and for me, this includes patent protection.”

Aiding China not AfricaDuring the leaders' dinner on Friday night, Merkel warned her colleagues that a patent waiver could do more to benefit a geopolitical rival like China, which has production capacity to make use of new Western mRNA technology, than it would to help needy countries in Africa obtain vaccines. “For me, the issue of patent protection is not the path that will lead us to more vaccines and better vaccines," Merkel said during her post-summit news conference in Berlin.

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The criticism of Biden marked an escalation in the contest for supremacy in vaccine diplomacy — a geopolitical battle in which China, Russia and the U.K. are also fully engaged. And it came just as EU heads of state and government were readying for a videoconference with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a vocal advocate of waiving patent protections whose country has faced a devastating surge in infections.

European leaders have been on the defensive since Biden’s announcement, which they view as a shrewd — and somewhat maddening— public relations maneuver.Although EU leaders had announcedurgent plans to help India, Biden upstaged Europe, first by announcing donations to India of millions of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine and then by reversing course and endorsing a patent waiver. India is a pharmaceutical manufacturing powerhouse and perhaps the country best positioned to capitalize on Biden’s plan.

But the competition for influence extends beyond India. At a Friday night news conference in Porto, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted that the EU was already activating plans to send more than 600,000 doses to countries in the Western Balkans and was planning similar donations for countries in the Eastern Partnership group that spans Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

That group includes Ukraine, which has— to no avail, and where Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid a visit just this week.'Pharmacy of the world'In chiding the U.S. leader for a lack of specifics, von der Leyen and other EU leaders repeatedly stressed that among democracies, only countries within the EU’s single market have been exporting"large-scale" quantities of vaccines.

Asked about the patent issue, von der Leyen said: “We should be open to this discussion, but when we lead this discussion there needs to be a 360-degree view on it, because we need vaccines now for the whole world. And in the short and medium term, the IP waiver will not solve the problems, will not bring a single dose of vaccine in the short and medium term.” 

At the summit's closing news conference, von der Leyen said:"The European Union is the pharmacy of the world and open to the world. Up to today in the European Union, 400 million doses of vaccines have been produced and 50 percent of them — 200 million doses — have been exported to 90 different countries in the world. So we invite others to do the same. This is the best way right now in the short term to approach the bottlenecks and the lack of vaccines worldwide."

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Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said EU leaders did not need any lectures from Washington:"As Europeans, we don’t need to be schooled. The U.S. hasn’t exported a single vaccine in the past six months. Europe is the one that’s been producing for itself and the rest of the world these past six months.”

Travel certificates get movingWith the pace of vaccinations accelerating, many EU countries with big tourism sectors are eager to reopen to summer travelers andvon der Leyen told leadersat the summit that plans for an EU-authorized"travel certificate" were moving forward.

"The legal and the technical work on the EU travel certificate, the vaccination certificate, is on track for the system to be operational in June," she said, noting perhaps ambitiously, that a deal between the Council of the EU and the European Parliament could be reached this month.

She said the scheme would allow people to"carry with them unfalsifiable proof that they have been vaccinated or they have a negative mutually recognized test, or they have overcome COVID and thus antibodies."EU countries have struggled to remain united with regard to border control measures and some countries, including Greece and Croatia, have already announced plans to reopen to U.S. tourists, for example, even as the Commission is working to develop new joint recommendations.

In Porto, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told POLITICO that his country was pushing to reassure tourists that it was safe to visit, and also hoped the EU travel certificates would be approved soon."Our objective is to create conditions that we can have again a tourist season at least at the level or even better than it was last year," said Plenković, whose economy relies heavily on tourism.

He said Croatia would"do our utmost to speed up the vaccination of our citizens to ensure that every single tourist that comes to Croatia feels safe" while also pushing for the adoption of the EU green certificate.Several countries, such as Austria, have taken matters into their own hands with the launch of a national pass. If there's no EU-wide agreement, countries could cut bilateral deals, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. He said even countries that had concerns about the scheme were under pressure to restart travel.

"There aren't just politicians in the world, thank God, there's the population, and the population ... is impatient: People want to travel again, they want to have the possibility of going on holiday again," he said. Read more: POLITICO »

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Hey EU get a grip. This is not business as usual, it’s not about who makes the money, not during a pandemic. Are you all daft? Seriously, your concern about dollars, makes no “cents” ;-) C’mon son stop. Let’s do a societal reboot after ‘Rona “Mankind- ness” 💯 When I think of the EU, sometimes I'm reminded of Mrs Norris, who knew well how to preach liberty to others... (Mansfield Park- J Austen).

His response.... 'Uh Uh I really...... I really don't know.... Um...let me check the teleprompter... Uh....the details haven't been finalized yet....Um.....C'mon man!!! . Politico is weird lately Leebairate zee doses Joe, you can doo eet!

EU leaders raise doubts over U.S. plan to waive Covid vaccine patentsEU leaders have doubts that waiving intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines is the way to go. Waiving Covid vaccine patents is just a political show. chenweihua Europe can never get enough Genocide. What a fucked up bunch of imperialist oligarchs the EU has. Surprised the people of Europe don’t revolt against their criminals perched a top their crumbling civilization. Europe needs a rebirth as bad as America. Both are mora abominations.

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Biden move to share vaccine designed to spread US influenceIt won’t speed the manufacture of vaccines. More than a month of internal debate led up to Biden’s decision this week to endorse international calls to strip patent protections for vaccines. Biden endorsed it during his campaign for the White House. Giving to China and India for free what cost US companies millions to develop along with the risks.. E-yep.. That's the Joe 'Clueless' Biden way....