As the World Trade Organization’s chief appealed to member countries on Wednesday to negotiate temporarily easing rules that protect COVID-19 vaccine technology, the White House said its overall objective remains, “how can we provide as much supply in the most cost effective way to the global community?”
Watch the briefing in the video player above.
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala spoke to a closed-door meeting of ambassadors from developing and developed countries that have been wrangling over the issue, but agree on the need for wider access to COVID-19 treatments, spokesman Keith Rockwell said.
The WTO’s General Council was taking up the pivotal issue of a temporary waiver for intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines and other tools that South Africa and India first proposed in October. The idea has gained support in the developing world and among some progressive lawmakers in the West.
Some proponents saw more hope for the proposal after U.S. President Joe Biden’s top trade official, Katherine Tai, said last month that gaping inequities in access to COVID-19 vaccines between developed and developing countries were completely unacceptable, and that mistakes made in the global response to the HIV pandemic mustn’t be repeated.
“We take intellectual property incredibly seriously,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. Indicating the thorny nature of the negotiations, she also said: “We also, though, are in the midst of a historic global pandemic, which requires a range of creative solutions.”
More than 100 countries have come out in support of the proposal, and a group of 110 members of Congress – all fellow Democrats of Biden – sent him a letter last month that called on him to support the waiver.
Psaki told reporters the Department of Justice (DOJ) was reviewing a federal judge’s decision Wednesday to block a nationwide eviction moratorium that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) established as the COVID-19 lockdowns put millions of renters out of work during the past year.
Shortly after the White House briefing finished, a DOJ spokesman tweeted the Department had filed notice to appeal the ruling and is seeking a stay of the decision in the meanwhile.
While not commenting directly on Facebook’s quasi-independent oversight board upholding bans on former President Donald Trump, Psaki said Biden wanted platforms to have more responsibility for content.
“His view is that there’s more that needs to be done to ensure that this type of misinformation, disinformation, damaging, sometimes life threatening information is not going out to the American public.”, Psaki said.
Psaki also said U.S. Space Command was monitoring the reentry of a large Chinese satellite into the earth’s atmosphere, expected over the next week.
“Cooperation is a hallmark of our approach,” to space, Psaki said. “We’re going to work with our international partners on that and certainly addressing this is something we’ll do through those channels.”