The Trade Enforcement Digest, Issue #10

The Trade Enforcement Digest, Issue #10

Welcome to
The Trade Enforcement Digest,
a monthly newsletter brought to you by the Alliance for Trade Enforcement (AFTE).

AFTE is a coalition of trade associations and business groups that advocates for protecting American businesses and workers by enforcing U.S. trade agreements.

Would you like to speak with an AFTE representative about any of the issues discussed in this newsletter? If so, please email

Alliance Announcements

  • On October 28, AFTE submitted comments for the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s 2023 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE). You can read AFTE’s full submission here and a statement announcing its release here.

  • On October 22, AFTE Executive Director Brian Pomper penned an op-ed for IPWatchdog urging the U.S. Senate to confirm Chris Wilson to the position of Chief Innovation and Intellectual Property Negotiator within the Office of the United States Trade Representative. You can read the full piece here.

  • On October 14, AFTE released a white paper detailing key principles and possibilities to include enforcement mechanisms in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the prospective trade arrangement that the Biden-Harris administration is currently hashing out with 13 other nations, that could ensure that the partnership is robust, ambitious and can deliver meaningful economic outcomes for businesses in the United States. You can read the full white paper here and a statement announcing its release here.

  • Politico Weekly Trade, Inside U.S. Trade, and International Trade Today spotlighted AFTE’s IPEF white paper soon after its release.

In the News

  • Bipartisan Group of Senators Question Need to Extend IP Waiver: Five Democratic and five Republican Senators, including Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Robert Menendez (D-NJ), sought information from USTR on a possible TRIPS waiver expansion. They questioned whether extending the waiver to apply to Covid-19 therapeutics and diagnostics would enhance access to these products in developing nations and questioned how USTR would define “diagnostic” and “therapeutic” in a potential waiver expansion. They also asked for a list of countries that have expressed interest in accessing American IP for Covid-related diagnostics and therapeutics. (Office of Senator Tom Carper, 10/19)

  • Representatives Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Kevin Brady (R-TX) Ask USTR to Preserve Communications Related to IP Waiver for Covid-19 Vaccines: House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Kevin Brady and Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Adrian Smith criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the Biden-Harris administration’s decision to support an IP waiver for Covid-19 vaccines at the WTO and asked that the administration preserve copies of all communications related to this decision, as requested in H.Res.1285. The leaders also condemned the Biden-Harris administration’s agreement to discuss the extension of the IP waiver to Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics and reiterated the position of several Members of Congress that the administration reverses course. (GOP Ways & Means, 10/20)

  • Two Mexican Economy Ministers Resign Amid U.S. Mexico Trade Dispute: Mexican Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier and Deputy Economy Minister Luz Maria de la Mora both resigned in a two-week period after serving as the chief negotiator for the ongoing U.S.-Mexico energy trade dispute. Both economy ministers were key allies of the United States, and their departure is a blow to the negotiations. (Reuters, 10/13)

  • UNCTAD Releases New Report on How Creative Industries Can Foster Economic Development: The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s 2022 Creative Economy Outlook report was released at the 3rd World Congress on Creative Economy in Bali, Indonesia. The report describes how protecting creative industries, such as through robust intellectual property rights, can grow the global economy. (UNCTAD, 10/7)

  • WTO Predicts Trade Growth to Decline in 2023: According to a prediction by the World Trade Organization, global merchandise trade volumes will increase just 1% in 2023 due to rising interest rates and high energy prices, down from a previous forecast of 3.4%. (WTO, 10/5)

  • New Data Shows United States Trade Deficit Fell in August 2022: According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the trade deficit fell from $70.6 billion in July to $67.4 billion in August. Exports fell by $0.7 billion, while imports decreased by $3.7 billion. (BEA, 10/5)

  • UNCTAD and the World Customs Organization (WCO) Sign New Memorandum of Understanding: UNCTAD and WCO agreed to work together to use data and technology to improve customs and data exchange. (UNCTAD, 10/4)

Spotlight on Enforcement

(If you only focus on one enforcement issue this month, it should be this one.)

In just a few weeks, the World Trade Organization (WTO) will decide whether to waive international intellectual property (IP) protections for Covid-19 therapeutics and diagnostics. The proposal before the WTO would “extend” an existing IP waiver isolated to Covid-19 vaccines. As the decision nears, opposition to the waiver has intensified on both sides of the aisle.

In particular, lawmakers and labor groups have zeroed in on how the waiver would impact American workers by undermining domestic biopharmaceutical R&D. A bipartisan group of senators recently wrote U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai, asking whether she’ll consider the waiver’s “projected impact on American jobs” before proceeding. Major labor unions, including the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers and the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters, have opposed the extended waiver because of its job-crushing impacts.

Of course, jobs aren’t the only concern. As the Progressive Policy Institute recently warned, an IP waiver for Covid-19 treatments and tests “could apply to a variety of multipurpose medical devices and medicines yet to be invented.” Overturning global IP rules for these products could thus have reverberations far beyond Covid-19. Consider the drug remdesivir. While the FDA approved remdesivir to treat Covid-19, it can also treat viruses like Ebola, Marburg, and measles. Nullifying patent protections for existing Covid-19 treatments as well as the more than 700 currently in the pipeline could deprive vulnerable patient populations of much-needed help.

Most importantly, the proposed waiver extension is “no pros and all cons.” Along with its negative impacts on a multitude of U.S. industries, an extended IP waiver would do little to achieve its intended purpose of expanding access to Covid-19 therapeutics and diagnostics in low and middle-income nations. On the contrary, IP protections have enabled over 140 voluntary licensing agreements and manufacturing programs around the world, boosting supply in over 100 countries, most of which are low or middle-income.

Thankfully, more lawmakers are picking up on this disconnect. As noted above, a bipartisan group of five Democratic and five Republican Senators recently asked USTR Tai to explain how an extended waiver would actually help patients in developing countries — considering the initial vaccine waiver from June 2022 didn’t address the actual barriers to vaccination, such as a lack of healthcare workers, supply chain bottlenecks, and insufficient infrastructure.

House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Adrian Smith (R-NE) also recently wrote to USTR to condemn the TRIPS waiver and demand that the administration preserve all records relevant to the waiver and its proposed expansion. This letter follows on a resolution the two Members introduced this summer along similar lines.

An extended IP waiver would threaten millions of U.S. jobs while undermining the world-leading biopharmaceutical industry that delivers life-changing treatments and cures to patients around the world. Members of Congress are right to ask tough questions — so much is at stake.