Health Activists Protest U.S. Position on TRIPS Agreement One Week Before WTO Meetings
About 300 demonstrators gathered outside the Washington, D.C., offices of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick yesterday to protest the country's position on patent rights and access to drugs in developing nations, one week before the World Trade Organization's meeting in Qatar, the Washington Post reports. The activists -- most of whom traveled from Philadelphia -- wielded paper skulls and gave a "rousing send-off" to the U.S. trade representatives on their way to the Qatar meetings. The demonstration was the only U.S.-based protest planned for next week's conference (Washington Post, 11/2). Health activists disagree with the United States' opposition to "liberalizing" the WTO's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement, and they have "pushed" for approval of a declaration that would allow developing nations to suspend drug patents in times of public health crises, a move that would help poor nations access cheaper AIDS drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/1). Although the United States-backed declaration "acknowledges" that developing countries have a right "to take measures necessary to address these pulbic health crises, in particular to secure affordable access to medicines," it "insists" that TRIPS "takes precedence" over that right (Olson, New York Times, 11/2). In a speech yesterday, however, Zoellick announced two concessions that his delegation would make to developing nations that cannot afford patented AIDS drugs: a deadline extension to 2016 to implement patent laws, 10 years beyond WTO's deadline, and a moratorium of at least five years on WTO challenges to African nations' efforts to fight AIDS and other diseases (Washington Post, 11/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.