Fate of WTO Draft Agreement on Access to Low-Cost Medicines for Developing Countries ‘In the Hands’ of United States
The ability of 144 World Trade Organization member states to agree on the wording of a pact to give developing nations low-cost access to patented drugs, such as antiretrovirals, may now be "entirely in the hands of the Bush administration," the AP/Nando Times reports. Although several other delegates -- including those from the European Union, Brazil and Kenya -- said they are ready to agree, the United States now wants wording to limit the scope of use of generics to treat only "infectious disease epidemics" and not ailments such as asthma, diabetes or smoking-related illnesses (Koppel, AP/Nando Times, 12/17). The negotiations center around last November's Doha declaration, which states that WTO members could ignore pharmaceutical patents and make generic drugs for domestic use to battle health epidemics. A draft agreement proposed on Monday by Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Perez Motto, who is in charge of the talks, says generic drugs could be used to combat "public health problems ... especially those resulting from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics." However, the United States continues to hold the position that this wording is too loose and would allow patent overrides for other, non-infectious diseases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/17).
U.S. Position Stalling Agreement, Groups Say
Several other WTO members said that the U.S. position is blocking efforts for the group to meet a self-imposed, Dec. 31 deadline to reach an agreement. European Union Ambassador Carlo Trojan said, "It's up to the United States now." Antonio de Aguiar Patriota of Brazil said that the United States should accept the latest compromise, reached after "months of painstaking talks," adding, "The predominant view is that if we change anything in this text ... it will unravel the entire process." And although African WTO members had wanted "more liberal measures," Kenyan Ambassador Amina Chawahir Mohamed, speaking on their behalf, said African nations had decided to "accept the agreement" (AP/Nando Times, 12/17). Yesterday, the United States appeared "increasingly isolated" after U.S. Ambassador Linnet Deily said the nation would not accept the third and latest draft of the agreement, Agence France-Presse reports. Members are scheduled to resume the meeting tomorrow in Geneva, which will be the last chance to resolve "clear and deep divisions" and meet the deadline for an agreement, as business will end for the holiday period (Agence France-Presse, 12/17).