Biden's Trade Representative Supported IP Protections Until She Didn't

Posted: May 14, 2021 2:05 PM
Biden's Trade Representative Supported IP Protections Until She Didn't

Source: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai made drew criticism from Republicans and the pharmaceutical industry when she announced the Biden administration would pursue a deal through the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property protections on American COVID vaccine technology. But just a few months earlier she sang a very different tune while testifying during her confirmation hearings before the Senate Finance Committee.

"I know that one of the things that distinguishes our economy is the innovation that goes on here," Tai said in response to a question from Senator Menendez (D-NJ). "I think that is in large part due to the balance that is achieved by the Congress in terms of our intellectual property protections, and rights—laws—and yes, I believe it is important for our trade policies to reflect that balance as well between the rights of innovators and the rights of those seeking access to the fruits of their innovations."

In another response to Senator Crapo (R-ID), Tai reiterated she supported current protections for intellectual property, including a law known as Special 301 that "requires the U.S. Trade Representative to identify countries that deny adequate and effective IP protections." Of Special 301, Tai said it "should be considered one of the tools in the IP enforcement and monitoring toolbox and that its use should be focused on effectiveness and making it as effective as possible in promoting the interests and resolving the problems for American innovators."

She's right that protections on intellectual property promote innovation, but when Tai talked about a "balance" she apparently meant a wholesale giveaway of COVID vaccine technology developed at great cost to both American companies and American taxpayers—the Moderna vaccine was developed in partnership with the National Institutes of Health.

Asked by Senator Young (R-IN) about how she would develop intellectual property protections within the Biden administration as China continues its attempts to steal American technology, Tai responded that "President Biden and his administration are committed to undertaking a comprehensive China review and that will involve IP protections and it will also go across the board in terms of our strategic interests and our cross-disciplinary policy areas." 

Evidently this admitted need to do a "comprehensive China review" doesn't mean there's any hesitancy to allow the Chinese Communist Party to access American COVID vaccine technology, a situation that would give the genocidal nation information in a field in which it currently lags 10-15 years behind the United States.

Fast-forward from her February confirmation hearings to this week when U.S. Trade Representative Tai—who was confirmed to the post in a 98-0 bipartisan vote—expressed an entirely different sentiment when it comes to the intellectual property rights of American innovators. 

"We know these extraordinary times demand extraordinary leadership and creativity to find solutions that can defeat COVID-19," Tai told the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. "The announcement last week that the United States will not let intellectual property rights get in the way of saving lives is just one part of the Administration’s global effort."

At the time of Tai's confirmation, Senator Brown (D-OH) tweeted that "we'll finally have a leader who puts American workers at the center of our trade agenda" and that his constituents "are sick and tired of watching corporations ship their jobs overseas. 

Now Tai and the Biden administration are attempting to hand China and other nations the intellectual property they need to undercut American businesses and take American jobs created by U.S. innovation.