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OPINION

House Committee Must Safeguard American Healthcare Innovation From China

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File

If somebody stole your car, hacked your bank account, and emptied your retirement savings, your response certainly would not be to reward your perpetrator with an expensive gift. Yet this policy of rewarding the criminally complicit is now being emphatically embraced by the Biden administration in its quest to hand over highly advanced and proprietary U.S. patents to China and other nations who for decades have been building their economies on stolen American intellectual property (IP).

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The theft of U.S. innovation by China alone costs our economy between $225 and $600 billion a year, according to a former U.S. Trade Representative, yet the White House seeks to invoke an expanded TRIPS Waiver that would gift highly valuable and cutting-edge U.S. medical patents to a repressive regime at the expense of American innovators and inventors. This malfeasance is part of the far-left’s agenda for greater control of our healthcare system by commandeering the private market, and the Chinese could not be happier about it.

According to the Council for Innovation Promotion’s Executive Director Frank Cullen, “China has sought to weaken America, and enrich itself, by stealing cutting-edge technologies critical to our national security and economic well-being.” Chinese companies backed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) steal American technology, the profits that go with it, and the incentives to attempt further innovation.

Of course the CCP adamantly supports an expanded TRIPS Waiver. The waiver in its original form is already paving a dangerous path for our domestic drug manufacturing industry by removing patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines. The expanded waiver would rope in COVID-19 treatments and diagnostics, essentially giving our medical technology to foreign countries. All of the scientific advancements America unearthed in response to the global pandemic would be free for the taking, serving a devastating blow to our framework of IP protections that are the foundation for hope in future cures and treatments.

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Lawmakers warned the Biden administration about this in a letter to Ambassador Katherine Tai arguing that “such expansion of the TRIPS Waiver may disincentivize the biotech sector from investing in R&D for products and treatments that we will need in a future pandemic or other public health crisis.” Today, there is no global shortage of COVID-19 medicines or vaccines and thus absolutely no need for an expanded waiver.

As the recently created House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party sets its priorities for the year, the committee can and must play a role in countering this madness. In a joint op-ed with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), China Select Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) stated the committee’s intention to prioritize legislative initiatives from elected officials regarding China’s aggressive IP theft and highlight its dangerous impact. He acknowledged the importance of shoring up our supply chains, especially when it comes to vital pharmaceuticals.

The Select Committee must bring heightened attention to the threats posed to medical IP by using its authority to launch investigations and issue subpoenas. By cracking down on Chinese IP theft and exposing destructive policies such as an expanded TRIPS Waiver, innovators and inventors would be protected, resulting in more domestic investment into indispensable pharmaceutical research and development (R&D).

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The stakes are high. Dismantling American patent protections threatens access to future treatments for patients worldwide and here at home. Between 2001 and 2010 the U.S. produced over 57% of the world’s new medicines, largely because of our strong system of IP rights that incentivized billions of dollars of R&D.  China is a thief and a freeloader, feasting on American innovation and the dedicated efforts of scientists, biologists, and manufacturers who make these drugs possible for patients. To steal from America’s inventors in order to reward a corrupt, authoritarian government is the act of a nation deliberately forfeiting its global leadership; something China would surely never do.

This year, World Intellectual Property Day on April 26th should serve as a wake-up call for lawmakers to renew efforts to protect and strengthen American IP rights. The China Select Committee offers a powerful platform to push back against the gift basket of an expanded TRIPS Waiver for the CCP, for starters. For the sake of future breakthroughs in technology, medicine, and across our economy, let us hope they enact strong protections for American innovation and punish the thievery that takes from us all.

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