Americans have endured more than two years of living with COVID-19. Many of us dealt with the risk of contracting the virus in different ways: some got vaccinated and boosted, some stayed indoors and wore masks, while others relied on natural immunity and healthy lifestyles.
Sane individuals have accepted living with the virus; those who remain concerned have the resources to deal with their assessed level of risk. Yet, the Biden administration is reluctant to move on from the pandemic and is using the virus on the world stage to expand government authorities and trade policies that undermine America’s national interest.
Recent actions by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have reignited a national debate over the government’s relationship with these institutions and their influence over U.S. public policy and the economy. President Trump understood that multilateral organizations do not have America’s best interests at heart, and his administration wisely implemented an America First agenda before the WHO and WTO, even going so far as to remove the U.S. from the former. The America First approach that reinforced the United States sovereignty attitude was quickly thrown out the door when President Biden was sworn into office.
In one of his first moves as president, Biden moved to rejoin the WHO without any serious effort to hold the institution or China accountable. Now, the Biden administration is seeking to amend the International Health Regulations to expand the authorities of global health bureaucrats and undermine nations’ sovereignty. Republican New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith argues that Biden’s actions “would grant new unilateral authority to WHO Director-General Tedros to declare a public health crisis in the United States or other sovereign nations, without any consultation with the U.S. or any other WHO member.”
At the same time, the Biden administration is encouraging a looming disaster at the WTO. Dozens of countries are petitioning the WTO to waive American intellectual property rights for the COVID-19 vaccine under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). However, data and experience show that this IP give-away for the vaccine formula is unnecessary. According to the New York Times, nearly 68% of the world has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and according to the State Department, the United States has delivered more than 543,000,000 doses to over 115 countries and is expected to share 1.2 billion doses.
So, why would the Biden administration want to give away American intellectual property for the COVID-19 vaccine? Moreover, why would the Biden administration want to risk the possibility of China gaining access to our medical industry’s sensitive information? No rationale makes sense, especially when one considers the generous contributions that U.S. taxpayers have made to the global COVID-19 pandemic response. The countries that would benefit from a TRIPS waiver have neither the resources nor the quality and safety controls necessary to replicate and develop the vaccines available in the United States.
We can engage in trade with China, while maintaining our global competitive edge. By having policies that protect intellectual property rights and promote free markets, American innovators will have a strong incentive to continue investing, researching, and developing the next generation of treatments and cures. Our national interests and sovereignty depend on these policy principles.
Our response to the next pandemic depends on what the Biden administration does next at the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization. America has the resources and intellect to lead the world in public health–we just have to have the willingness to do so. The first step is for the Biden administration to stop undermining American sovereignty by selling out to multilateral institutions and economic adversaries.
Cesar Ybarra is vice president of policy at FreedomWorks.