WTO: Commissioner Lamy must oppose the USG's strategy
October 24, 2001


In spite of the mobilization of more than 50 countries, the United States, supported by Canada, Switzerland and Japan, are currently blocking World Trade Organisation negotiations for allowing access to medicines in poor countries. The WTO Agreements as they stand are posing a dire threat to world health. Yet, and despite the terrifying spread of the HIV epidemic, rich countries still refuse to heed reason.

While Mike Moore (WTO Director-General) and Robert Zoellick (US Trade Representative) have systematically opposed developing countries' efforts to obtain a juridical garantee for the human right to health under WTO rules, Pascal Lamy (European Trade Commissioner) who until now has pursued the policy of ambiguousness, is presently in a position to put an end to the deadly logic of the WTO.

On October 22, Mike Moore released the text of the Doha declaration on intellectual property and access to medicines. The entirety of the 52-developing-country Coalition's proposals for authorizing public health measures and access to generic medicines are ignored in that text. Once again the United States and WTO merely offer juridically ambiguous paraphrasing of the TRIPS Agreement, and avoid a clear and precise stand on exactly what is allowed under WTO rules. At a time when the United States themselves are considering allowing the generic copy of Bayer's anthrax drug Cipro, in the name of the national security emergency, the USTR continues to refuse that AIDS-ridden countries be plainly allowed under WTO to copy drugs that fight HIV.

For Francisco Pessanha, Brazilian trade negotiator to WTO, "global public opinion must bear moral judgement on this refusal to protect public health". Tadeous Chifamba, trade negotiator for Zimbabwe, adds that it would be very worrisome if the WTO Agreement on intellectual property should turn out to be part of the problem rather than the solution, for the many countries whose immediate priority is to stop the aids hecatomb. Should the Doha process end on such a conclusion, the consequences might well affect the whole WTO process.

Meanwhile, the European Union sticks to language aimed at reassuring pharmaceutical companies and strengthening corporate hold over global treatment access, with proposals that the WTO now bind use of generic drugs to prior discount negotiations with patent holders. After an 18-month-long consultation process with civil society, including ACT UP-Paris, the EU is still proving unwilling to take the legimate defence, against pharmaceutical interests, of poor countries' right to health. This comes in the fiercest contradiction with the clear mandate given by the European Parliament two weeks ago that Mr Lamy defend poor countries' access-to-medicines proposals in the WTO.

Trade Commissioner Lamy will bear a major part of the responsibilty for the human consequences of access-to-medicines decisions made or not made at the WTO summit in Doha. When AIDS is killing 10,000 human beings each day, Pascal Lamy must oppose the US government's strategy in the WTO and suppor developing countries' public health proposals.

Media contacts:
GaŽlle Krikorian, Khalil Elouardigghi
tel : 01 49 29 44 75
galk@noos.fr
www.actupp.org - www.genericsnow.org


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