Put People’s Lives Before Pharma Profits

DSA IC supports a waiver on ‘WTO TRIPS’ rules to promote global access to medical products for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19.

It should be absolutely unthinkable—at any time, but especially in the midst of a raging pandemic—to block the production of direly needed medical supplies for the sake of corporate profits. But this is exactly what the United States, and the majority of the Global North, are doing by upholding monopoly patent protections for pharmaceutical companies at the expense of countless lives in the Global South.

DSA IC supports the proposal by the governments of India and South Africa to waive the World Trade Organization’s TRIPS [Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] regulations for all medical supplies needed for the diagnosis and treatment of Covid-19, and calls on the Biden administration to do the same. As socialists, we must fight for a system of trade that puts people over profits.

Initiated in 1995, the WTO TRIPS agreement undermines sovereign control over intellectual property law and extends corporate-friendly patent rules around the globe. Such stringent intellectual property rules obstruct the sovereign development paths of Global South nations and impede the production of public goods such as medicines and green technologies that should not be subject to the whims of the profit motive. 

We have, tragically, already seen what happens when capital-friendly intellectual property laws limit the global ability to respond to a health crisis: countless thousands died at the peak of the AIDS crisis for lack of affordable treatment as a direct result of TRIPS. We must not make the same mistake again.

TRIPS is just one of many global rules of trade that emerged as a part of the project of neoliberal globalization in an attempt to wrest the power of global capital out of democratic control and naturalize the rule of “the market.” This system, defined by the WTO and a patchwork of bilateral and multilateral trade and investment agreements, is a major obstacle to the socialist project, undermining the power of labor, eroding environmental regulations, instigating a regulatory race to the bottom, and deepening neocolonial exploitation.

As socialists living in the imperial hegemon, whose capital-aligned government was the primary force behind the propagation of this unjust system, it is our particular duty to resist it. We call on all DSA members to recognize the necessity of struggle at the level of the global economic system and to organize for a just alternative—starting by supporting the Covid-19 TRIPS waiver.