May 25, 2021

Crapo Urges Colleagues to Vote to Prevent China and Russia from Gaining Access to American Intellectual Property

Washington, D.C.-- U.S. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), spoke on the Senate Floor today urging the Senate to adopt his World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) amendment to the U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness Act.  Introduced last week, the amendment would guarantee the Administration a congressional vote on its waiver proposal, provided it (1) consults with Congress; (2) actually facilitates global vaccine access while not compromising U.S. national security--as determined by the Administration’s own agencies; and (3) does not extend to Russia or China.  The Senate voted for the amendment in a bipartisan 53-46 majority vote, but it did not meet the 60-vote threshold for adoption. 

“Russia and China are a threat to American innovation, and the principal reason why the USICA is before us on the floor of the Senate today,” Crapo said.  “So, why would we then allow the Administration to legally bless their malfeasance?  If we must stand together and waive the IP rights of Americans, the least we can do is insist that China and Russia--which tout the successes of their own vaccines--not be allowed to take hard-earned U.S. technology.” 

To view Senator Crapo’s remarks on the Senate Floor, click HERE or the image above. 

Full text of Senator Crapo’s remarks, as prepared, are below: 

Mr. President, I rise today to speak on Amendment number 1565, to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (or USICA), the underlying bill. 

My amendment preserves the constitutional authority of Congress over international trade.  

It does so by ensuring the President cannot waive or modify congressionally approved trade agreements, including the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights--or TRIPS Agreement. 

The TRIPS Agreement, like the USICA, contains provisions that facilitate the United States’ leadership in scientific and technological innovation.  

China is challenging that leadership through predatory practices aimed at our highest value sectors, including our pharmaceutical sector.  Plain and simple, China wants our intellectual property. 

Remarkably, the Administration announced, without consulting Congress, that it would support a waiver of U.S. intellectual property rights under the TRIPS Agreement with respect to vaccines.  Moreover, the U.S. Trade Representative declined to confirm that she would oppose letting this waiver extend to China. 

Colleagues, there are vaccines precisely because innovative U.S. firms exist because of strong IP protections.  The problem with access to vaccines is not intellectual property.  The problem is the manufacturing capacity. 

The amendment I am proposing allows the Administration to proceed, provided it is willing to make the case, including by presenting evidence and respecting Congress’s authority. 

The outcome is subject to congressional approval--just like the original TRIPS Agreement.  

I also demand real consultation with Congress.  My colleague’s amendment provides only that the Administration will provide “relevant” proposals and “pertinent” documents to Congress related to the final agreement.  There is no reason to grant this leeway to the Administration, given its existing failure to consult with us. 

My amendment requires the Administration to provide the text of any U.S. proposal to Congress five business days before it is tabled in a trade negotiation--not after it is agreed to--to amend a congressionally approved agreement. 

With respect to that agreement, and the other WTO Agreements, we have spoken clearly as a body that the United States can withdraw “if and only if” Congress passes a resolution to that effect. 

For example, it requires reports on issues central to whether the Administration’s decision makes sense, and provides for consultation by the Administration with the public and Congress concerning its proposal.  

This will facilitate transparency, identify any national security risks presented by the Administration’s proposal, and importantly, will stop an action that does not further vaccine access or present a risk to our national security. 

Accordingly, if the Administration’s proposal is determined--by the Administration’s own agencies--not to present a risk to U.S. national security and that it positively facilitates vaccine access, the Administration may continue negotiating and seeking an outcome for a waiver. 

It must not become the case that once Congress approves a trade agreement, the Administration can simply withdraw rights or obligations under a congressionally-approved trade agreement, or alter its terms however it sees fit. 

Yet, that is exactly what the Administration is seeking to do here. 

If we were to accept that proposition, what is the point of Congress approving any future trade agreement if the Administration can simply alter it without again coming to Congress to make that change? 

This amendment ensures that the Administration’s proposal will in fact get a vote by applying fast track-like procedures to its conclusion. 

It also prohibits our IP from going to China or Russia.  

I have only one red line--which I suspect all of you share--the Administration may not waive U.S. IP rights under the TRIPS Agreement to China and Russia.  

Congress approved the entry of these two countries into the WTO precisely because we wanted to hold them accountable to WTO rules. 

Russia and China are a threat to American innovation, and the principal reason why the USICA is before us on the floor of the Senate today.  

So, why would we then allow the Administration to legally bless their malfeasance?  

If we must stand together and waive the IP rights of Americans, the least we can do is insist that China and Russia--which tout the successes of their own vaccines--not be allowed to take hard-earned U.S. technology. 

This concern is particularly valid since the Chinese government is actively trying to steal mRNA technology, and its efforts to develop such technology is led, in fact, by an arm of the Chinese military. 

USICA is a sincere bipartisan effort to promote American innovation in the face of China’s predations.  My amendment complements that effort and must likewise be considered.  

I encourage all of my Democrat and Republican colleagues to support it.  

Thank you, Mr. President. 

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