The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mike Stankiewicz,,

41 Civil Society Groups Urge White House to Support Lifting WTO Barriers to COVID Test & Treatment Access


The U.S. should publicly support lifting World Trade Organization (WTO) barriers to COVID test and treatment access and otherwise back countries seeking to use compulsory licensing to access COVID-related medical technologies, 41 health, labor, faith, human rights and other civil society organizations said today in a letter to the Biden administration.

The letter comes two months after a June 17 WTO decision on access to COVID medical technologies that failed to lift key barriers to COVID vaccine access, but that promised to consider the question of test and treatment access by mid-December.

The letter's signers urged President Biden to support temporarily waiving WTO intellectual property (IP) rules standing in the way of increased global access to COVID treatments and diagnostics, saying "immediate U.S. support would make the difference" in such a waiver being adopted. The letter also urged the President to commit to not using trade rules or any other means to discourage countries from using existing -- albeit limited -- WTO flexibilities to produce COVID medicines.

"[Low- and middle-income] countries are lagging in planning for robust test-and-treatment programs because of uncertainty about supply, affordability, and equitable distribution of COVID-19 therapeutics," the letter said. "As IP barriers contribute to persistent vaccine inequities and similar patterns of inequity in test-and-treat programs, the time to act is now."

Signers of the letter include the American Federation of Teachers, Amnesty International USA, Association of Flight Attendants, Citizens Trade Campaign, Doctors Without Border U.S., Health GAP, Human Rights Watch, Knowledge Ecology International, Presbyterian Church (USA), Rethink Trade, Trade Justice Education Fund and many others.

The Trade Justice Education Fund is a new nonprofit that sponsors public education programs designed to expand awareness about the worker rights, environmental and climate, and public health implications of U.S. trade policy.