PRA Joins Declaration on the importance of collaboration, open trade, and innovation in tackling COVID-19
As the shockwaves of the Covid-19 pandemic tremble around the world, it is crucial for member states of the World Health Organization to do everything they can to resist the false temptations of protectionism. That is the main message of the Joint Declaration addressed to the WHO’s World Health Assembly signed by Property Rights Alliance and 30 other international think tanks on the occasion of their annual meeting.
Some member states have pursued protectionist policies which undermine intellectual property rights and prevent the unrestricted flow of needed medical supplies. Free-trade supported by robust property rights enforcement are our greatest assets in the effort to spur medical innovation and to distribute vaccines and therapies to all those who need them.
There are many longstanding public health problems which have not yet been addressed in response to the pandemic. For example, about half of WTO members apply tariffs on imported medicines, 80 countries have implemented some form of export curb on medical supplies, and recent air traffic and freight restrictions have further worsened inefficient customs and trade procedures. Signers of the joint declaration urge member states to reduce such tariffs, reject export curbs, and cut such customs red tape.
In addition to the above trade measures, the joint declaration also states strengthening IP rights will not only increase the likelihood a vaccine is invented, but will also speed up the vaccine’s mass manufacturing and global distribution. These claims are based on real evidence from the past, and the fact that 140 experimental Covid-19 treatments are currently being developed by companies worldwide. The joint declaration asserts the free flow of medical data across borders and international cooperation is vital for finding the cure.
Our modern society’s global innovation system is based upon free markets and the protection of property rights. Policy challenges to this wisdom are inevitable and occur almost every generation, but the persistence of innovation through strong IP consistently ends up victorious because of tangible results. In this crisis, the collaborators on the joint declaration know it is important to trust and empower these great mechanisms of innovation. If the WHA is serious about addressing the challenges presented by COVID 19 it will avoid activist voices calling for experiments with IP and trade policies. Instead the WHO should embrace the market-driven R&D system that thrives in free-markets supported by robust property rights.