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Intellectual Property

Big Tobacco Is Funding Opposition To Global Covid Vaccine Access

Major tobacco companies including British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International are funding an anti-regulatory, libertarian-leaning organization, Consumer Choice Center (CCC), that is working to restrict global Covid-19 vaccine access. CCC is mobilizing to defeat a proposal at the World Trade Organization to suspend intellectual property rules related to Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. The WTO proposal is aimed at expanding global access to life-saving Covid-19 products, and reversing staggering international inequities. By funding its opposition, critics say the tobacco industry is undermining public health, which will have impacts not only during this pandemic — but the next one. The CCC supports a broad array of deregulatory measures, and the tobacco industry is, famously, a champion of deregulation.

Democratizing Knowledge

The current public health crisis is demonstrating how deficiencies in our approach to intellectual property (IP)—a unique set of rights and protections that applies to the creations of the human intellect—and research and development (R&D) imperil the health, safety, and livelihoods of millions of people around the world. As has happened all too often in the past, the choice to prioritize corporate profits and an exclusionary version of IP rights and R&D over affordable medicines and medical supplies is proving not only to be deadly, but also threatens to dramatically increase economic, geographic, and social inequality.

What The Trade Battles Are Really About

As opponents and advocates of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continue to battle it out, the debate over the agreement has largely focused on the issue of trade – whether jobs will be lost or gained, what the agreement will do to our trade deficit, and other related matters. It's worth pointing out that the United States already trades heavily with the other 11 nations included in the TPP talks. As Paul Krugman says, “this is not a trade agreement. It's about intellectual property and dispute settlement; the big beneficiaries are likely to be pharma companies and firms that want to sue governments.” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has been particularly critical of the so-called Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions, which would empower corporations to use international courts to sue the U.S. government and others who are enacting regulations and protections that harm their profits.
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