WTO Attempts To Reach Agreement on Final Day of Talks on Draft Agreement on Access to Low-Cost Medicines for Developing Countries
Negotiations reopened today in Geneva among 144 World Trade Organization members regarding a draft agreement to create better drug access for developing countries -- a measure that is being "blocked predominantly by the United States," Agence France-Presse reports. Ambassadors returned to talks in a last effort to approve a third and final draft of a pact mandated by last November's Doha declaration by the self-imposed deadline of the end of today, when many of the ambassadors will leave for the holidays (Agence France-Presse, 12/20). That draft text states that WTO members could ignore pharmaceutical patents and make generic drugs for domestic use to battle health epidemics, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/18). European Union and African nations all have said they would sign the proposal, but the United States continues to hold the position that this wording is too loose and would allow patent overrides for other, non-infectious diseases. Mexican ambassador Eduardo Perez Motta, who is in charge of the talks, said he had not "given up hope" on reaching a deal today (Agence France-Presse, 12/20). According to the Associated Press, some WTO members have proposed a clause specifying 15 diseases approved for generic drug use. However, ambassadors from developing nations said they would be "unhappy" with that restriction, according to the Associated Press. Brazilian diplomat Antonio de Aguiar Patriota has urged approval of the current draft, saying that it already has the support of 143 of the 144 members (Koppel, Associated Press, 12/21). Sergio Marchi, chair of the WTO general council, which is overseeing the negotiations, said that even if an agreement is not made today, there should not be "harsh criticism," as the delay might serve as "inspiration" to reach a deal within "two or three weeks," according to Singapore's Business Times (Kanth, Business Times, 12/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.