In Compromise, WTO Negotiators Agree TRIPS ‘Shall Not Prevent’ Members From Taking Public Health Protection Measures
A World Trade Organization ministerial working group meeting in Doha, Qatar, has "agreed in principle" to a compromise draft declaration that would reaffirm the right of WTO member nations to use the "flexibility" of the Trade-Related Aspects of International Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to "ensure access to medicines for all," Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 11/12). WTO delegates from 52 developing countries on Sept. 19 asked other WTO ministers to approve a proposal that would clarify TRIPS language to say that TRIPS would "not prevent governments from taking measures necessary to protect public health," including the production or importation of generic AIDS drugs. The countries' proposal, however, was blocked by the United States and Switzerland, which presented a paper stating that "there is essentially no problem with the [TRIPS] agreement and no need for clarifications" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/4). The reported compromise states that TRIPS "shall not prevent (WTO) members from taking measures to protect public health" (BBC News, 11/12). The draft also reaffirms that WTO members have the right "to use, to the full, the provisions in the TRIPS agreement ... [to] ensur[e] access to medicines for all" and says that WTO members "reiterate their commitment to TRIPS" (Agence France-Presse, 11/12). An Egyptian WTO delegate said that agreement has been reached on 95% of a compromise draft addressing the issue of patents and pharmaceuticals (Agence France-Presse, 11/12). However, a U.S. trade official said that "there was no deal yet on intellectual property rights," adding that another round of trade talks may be in the works. At the meeting, the United States put forward proposals that would grant developing nations a 10-year exemption from patent protection and would place a five-year moratorium on trade complaints related to HIV/AIDS drugs in Africa (BBC News, 11/12). The compromise must still be formally ratified by WTO's plenary session on Tuesday, but World Health Organization expert German Velasquez said that the text relating to access to medicines "could technically be accepted independently, regardless of whether ministers agree on a new trade round" (Agence France-Presse, 11/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.