US protests urge German Chancellor Merkel to support trade rule change for fair access to COVID-19 vaccines

July 14, 2021: German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces US protests tomorrow at her government’s opposition to the suspension of 20-year monopoly patents on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments at the World Trade Organisation. A “die-in” will be staged with a giant Merkel puppet lurking over dozens of body bags representing the millions of lives on the line.

On July 12, nine US Democrat lawmakers urged Germany to drop its "blockade" of the COVID-19-related waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights under global trade rules, and asked Chancellor Angela Merkel to meet with them during her visit to Washington. "Thanks to IP barriers, it is the US 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.

There have been more than a dozen protests at German Consulates this week, ahead of Chancellor Merkel’s visit to President Biden, whose administration supports the suspension, now being debated at the WTO.

Known as the “TRIPS waiver”, the suspension of the 20-year monopoly patents for COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and treatments would enable those life-saving medical items to be produced in as many places as possible as quickly as possible.

“While Americans and Western Europeans increasingly have widespread access to COVID vaccination, huge numbers of people around the world aren’t expected to have access to a vaccine for years unless global production is dramatically increased,” said Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director of Citizens Trade Campaign.

“With thousands of people continuing to die of COVID every day for lack of vaccines and treatments, the idea that Germany would continue to prioritize pharmaceutical profits over saving as many lives as possible and ending this pandemic is an outrage. Now is the time for real leadership.”

Earlier in July, over 100 international IP academics signed an open academic statement co-authored by Dr Hyo Yoon Kang (Kent Law School), Dr Siva Thambisetty (LSE), Dr Aisling Macmahon (Maynooth), Dr Luke McDonagh (LSE) and Prof Graham Dutfield (Leeds) which provides academic justification and support for the TRIPS Waiver proposal that is currently being negotiated at the WTO.

The letter calls on the governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Norway, Switzerland and the European Union to drop their opposition and instead to support the TRIPS waiver proposal.

The Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council will try to resolve the proposal supported by South Africa, India and over 100 other member states at a meeting on July 20, so that it could be put to a WTO General Council meeting on July 27, 2021.