Letter from Representatives Sherrod Brown, Marion Berry and Jo Ann Emerson Regarding Executive Order 13155

January 24, 2001

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

We understand the pharmaceutical industry is lobbying for the reversal of Executive Order 13155. This executive order provides a framework for determining whether it is appropriate for the United States to apply trade pressures to influence the intellectual property laws of Sub-Saharan African countries, for cases in which the laws are intended to expand access to HIV/AIDS drugs.

Executive Order 13155 marries two important principles: 1) the United States should promote strong and appropriate intellectual property protections; and 2) the United States should refrain from obstructing the legitimate attempts of sovereign nations to combat HIV/AIDS and save their citizens' lives.

The pharmaceutical industry has opposed this executive order from the outset. Drugmakers have argued that this order is discriminatory and that it undercuts our role in enforcing strong intellectual property protections.

While Executive Order 13155 applies only to HIV/AIDS drugs and medical technologies, there is ample reason to treat HIV/AIDS drugs as a unique class of products. HIV/AIDS is destroying the economic and social fabric of Sub-Saharan Africa. It has killed more than 11.5 million people in that region, and more than 34 million are infected with the disease. HIV/AIDS is making orphans of tens of thousands of children each year. The epidemic in Sub-Saharan South Africa is a humanitarian crisis, and US actions to secure the most restrictive of intellectual property schemes in these nations mean human beings will become infected needlessly and die.

Executive Order 13155 does not undercut our role in enforcing strong intellectual property protections. Under the order, the U.S. is to refrain from intervening only if a sub-Saharan African nation "provides adequate and effective intellectual property protection consistent with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) referred to in the Uruguay Round Agreement Act." In other words, the U.S. can step in if these nations breach the TRIPS agreement, but if their actions are allowed under the TRIPS accord, then the U.S. should not interfere.

Executive Order 13155 strikes a balance between the protection of intellectual property and the urgent needs of a population in crisis. While the prescription drug industry will no doubt pressure you to reverse this order, we urge you to weigh the ethical and public health implications of such an action against the inconsequential impact on drug industry profits. Standing behind Executive Order 13155 is the right thing to do.


Member of Congress

Member of Congress

Member of Congress