WTO Declaration on TRIPS and Health:
People With Aids 1, Drug Industry 0

ACT-UP Paris
November 14, 2001

(Paris, France) - It was more than high time that the tide turned - public health stakes, and therefore the interests of people with aids, have at last superseded transnational companiesı interests at the World Trade Oraganisation.

From now on, the dogma of corporate monopoly on life-saving drugs is no longer law.

Governments are now free to make or import generic versions of the patented drugs they need. By declaring that ³Each Member has the right grant compulsory licenses and the freedom to determine the grounds upon which such licenses are granted, the 142 Member States of the WTO have established the primacy of health over corporate monopolies, and this independently of national emergencies.

In Doha, developing countries have showed unprecedented determination. Led by the Africa Group, a coalition of more than 80 developing countries have forced rich countries to make key clarification concessions concerning what is possible under the WTO Agreement on intellectual property, and this in spite of intense pressure and maneuvers by the United States, the European Commission, Japan and Switzerland to divide and conquer.

In the future, governments who will attempt to apply bilateral trade sanctions or covert pressure against poor countries seeking to promote access to medicines will expose themselves to the condemnation of WTO Members States and the rest of the international community.

Yet, the victory is not quite complete : all key public-health provisions in the TRIPS Agreement are not clarified in the Doha declaration. Especially, the crucial recognition that generic versions of patented drugs can be exported to poor countries that do not have sufficient industrial capacity, has been refused by the United States and the European Commission.

The majority of people with aids and more generally, the majority of people with illnesses, live in countries where there is no sufficient drug-production capacity. It is thus necessary that the emerging developing countries be allowed to provide those least-developed countries the medicines they need. Now, even though the Trade Ministerial Declaration makes a point of recognizing the validity of the issue, the rich countries have nonetheless succeeded in derailing the indispensable clarification of whether such South-South access to medicines arrangements are possible under the TRIPS or not. In this regard, the Doha Declaration has failed to lift a crucial barrier to drug access.

Therefore, civil societyıs fight against Western drug giants and Western governments needs to continue in order to address issues left outstanding in Doha ­ the stakes of drug access are counted in millions of lives a year.

ACT UP-Paris demands that the WTO clarify, at the next meeting of its Council of TRIPS, the fact that nothing in the Agreement prevents trade of affordable, generic medicines.

Contact presse:
Gaëlle Krikorian
+33 609 177 055

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