TRIPS & Health: Commissioner Lamy must choose sides

Act Up-Paris/ Health Gap
November, 9-13, 2001

"On [TRIPS and health] we are midway. We acknowledge that developing countries have justified questions, justified frustrations and justified clarifications to ask." - Pascal Lamy, European Trade Commissioner. November 9 2001, Doha.

Since September 19, 60 countries have asked that "nothing in the TRIPS Agreement shall prevent countries from protecting public health." The aim for these countries is to produce or import generic medicines without fear of bilateral pressure or trade sanctions from developed countries.

While Mike Moore, Director-General of the WTO and Robert Zoellick (US Trade Representative) have systematically opposed poor countries efforts to guarantee the fundamental right to health, Pascal Lamy (European Trade Commissioner), has until now chosen the policy of ambiguousness.

A few European countries have completely dismissed the huge drug access crisis obtaining in the developing world, a nd brought their fullest support to pharmaceutical industry interests. They are strenuously opposed to any clarification of the TRIPS Agreement which would effectively let poor countries implement access to health provisions in the Agreement, such as importation by countries with no drug-manufacturing capacity of generic medicines from drug-manufacturing countries.

These European countries, foremost among which Germany, home of Bayer AG, are blocking a consensus proposal for Doha which supported access to health poor countries. Meanwhile, Trade Commissioner Lamy is choosing to cowardly play along and let poor countries=B9 clarification efforts be killed in the WTO.

Indeed, while Mr Lamy will speak at length about the importance of the matters raised by poor countries with regard to trade barriers to access to medicines, he refuses to explain exactly which public health measures under TRIPS the European Commission is in favor of., and to manifest his so-called support to poor countries into concrete language at the WTO negotiations.

By pursuing this policy of vagueness and refusing to clearly and officially take a side, Commissioner Lamy serves to further the US government=B9s aim to prevent that the Doha declaration on TRIPS and health concretely help poor countries access generic medicines. By refusing to take a firm position, Commissioner Lamy has all but decided to match the hard-line position of the US Delegation.

On November 1, the Joint Euopean Commission gave Pascal Lamy a clear mandate to "express [a] clear and unambiguous support for the position of the developing countries on the interpretation of the TRIPS agreement, by incorporating into the Ministerial Declaration to be adopted by the WTO in Doha a specific acknowledgement that recourse is permitted to the safeguard clauses contained in the TRIPS agreement, and confirming in particular that nothing in the TRIPS agreement must be used to prevent WTO members from taking measures to protect public health (paragraph 1 of the developing countries' draft declaration) and that no proceedings may be brought before the WTO against countries having recourse to these safeguard clauses."

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=B9s strategy in the WTO and support developing countries=B9 public health proposal.

Press contacts in Doha:

Gaelle Krikorian, Khalil Elouardighi, Act Up-Paris, + 33 6 09 17 70 55
email :

Asia Russell, Health GAP Coalition, Act Up Philadelphia : + 1 267 275 2645

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