What will happen? Private life patents and American Supremacy or the right to life of peoples?
By Riccardo Petrella*
the US emperor consent to the suspension of vaccines patents or will the
principle of private property and the defence of American supremacy prevail?
there any hope?
One wonders: what influence will the recent
decision by Canada, Israel and the Brazilian Senate (the latter even against
Bolsonaro’s will) to approve the use of “compulsory licencing”, i.e.
the exceptional power of the State, according to Article 31 of the WTO Trips
treaties, to allow the local production of the vaccines against Covids-19
without the authorisation of the patent holders, have on the discussions on 5
and 6 May at the level of the WTO General Council? Specifically,
will it incite US President Biden to take a stand in favour of
suspending the patents? And how will the dramatic escalation of the pandemic in
India weigh in? Will the ‘arithmetical’ fact that the Indian death toll remains
(according to an unbearable view) ‘insignificant'(!?) out of a population of
1.4 billion people, lead the economic and financial powers of the most powerful
state in the world to maintain their arrogant opposition to the provisional
It is highly foreseeable that Biden will
try to adopt a position that will above all avoid changing the ‘sacrosanct’
(!?) principle of private property rights over living beings without
undermining the world supremacy of the US pharmaceutical industry and
antagonising the entire world of American (and European) business and finance
To this end, it will be able to play a
strategy on two fronts. The first front
is to considerably increase the financial resources of the COVAX
instrument in order to speed up and expand the number of doses transferred to
the 92 low-income countries (of course, with public money from the rich
countries and the “help” of a few large “philanthropic”
foundations in the manner of the Gates Foundation).
The second front is to speed up and make
more efficient the logistics of local production and distribution/marketing of
vaccines through greater industrial cooperation between multinational companies
and their subsidiaries and subcontractors, as well as between sea, air and road transport companies. To
this end, a crucial role will be played by I
strengthening the digitalisation of health systems and local public
structures (vaccination centres, mobilisation of public institutions and civil
society associations involved in “development aid” and the fight
against poverty, etc.). Massive investment in logistics and digitalisation,
even in poor countries, would certainly be of interest to the financial markets
of developed countries and would perpetuate the technological and economic
dominance of the countries of the “North” while at the same time
favouring the enrichment of the local oligarchies of the “South”.
These two fields of action would show that
the US president had taken up “the cry of the world’s desperate
people”, that he had resumed world leadership in the fight for
development, people’s well-being and aid against poverty on an equitable basis,
and that he had also safeguarded the principle, dear to the dominant rich
countries, of affordable access to the “economic” goods essential to
A strategic choice that will be touted as
being inspired by ‘humanitarian’ and ‘solidarity’ aims (the Christian and
Catholic world as well as the progressive secular world will, for the most
part, be easily attracted to it) and welcomed by the supporters of ‘good’
capitalism, corporate social responsibility and public intervention in support
of the social market economy. In doing so,
The US president would remain consistent
with what was stated in a public document from the US government on 31 March
2021: “The Biden Administration is also committed to advancing global health
security to save lives, promote economic recovery, and develop resilience
against future global pandemics or crises. It looks forward to working with
trading partners to collaborate on initiatives to address the global health and
humanitarian response”. (3) Biden would not create any further divisions
within American society. He would also have the full support of the EU, which
has always fiercely opposed the temporary suspension of patents.
This choice would not change anything at
the systemic level, leaving intact the structural factors and processes that
are at the origin of the current major environmental, social, human and
Last hope? I hope with pleasure that I am
(1 In the past, Brazil and Thailand have
adopted compulsory licensing in six cases.
The same applies to some low-income countries.
(2) Among the top 15 pharmaceutical
companies in the world, 8 are US, 2 CH, 2 UK, 2 EU, 1 J.
(3) See Online PDF 2021 Trade Policy Agenda
and 2020 Annual Report.pdf, p.15
* Riccardo Petrella (La Spezia, Italy, August 5,
1941) – Agora of the Inhabitants of the Earth. Founder of the International
Committee for the World Water Contract, Prof. Emeritus of Globalisation at the
Catholic University of Louvain and member of The WPFâ€™s Scientific Committee,
Italy. Article sent to Other News by the author.