Bush Administration Will Maintain Clinton’s South Africa Policy on Intellectual Property Rights
The Bush administration yesterday indicated that it will uphold an executive order issued last year by President Clinton that excludes sub-Saharan African countries from U.S. trade and patent laws concerning HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals and medical technologies, the Los Angeles Times/Contra Costa Times reports. Joseph Papovich of the U.S. Trade Representative's office issued a "brief" statement affirming that the Bush administration is "not considering a change in the present flexible policy." The statement, which did not specifically refer to the executive order, added, "Consistent with our overall effort to protect America's investment in intellectual property, the USTR will seek to contribute to administration efforts to work with countries that develop serious programs to prevent and treat this horrible disease" (Cimons, Los Angeles Times/Contra Costa Times, 2/21). The statement "came amid speculation" that, under pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, the Bush administration might reverse the policy, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Clinton's executive order supports South Africa's 1997 law that enables the country to obtain AIDS drugs at reduced prices through two "controversial" practices: parallel importing and compulsory licensing. Parallel importing involves the purchasing of drugs "from the cheapest sources available" without the manufacturer's permission; compulsory licensing allows the government, after declaring a national health emergency, to license local companies to manufacture cheaper, generic version of drugs "whose patents are held by multinational companies." The pharmaceutical industry argues that the South Africa law "seriously undermines intellectual property protection" and has sued to prevent South Africa from implementing the law. The first court hearing on this matter is scheduled for March 5 in South Africa's Pretoria High Court (Cooper/McGinley, Wall Street Journal, 2/21).