Oxfam condemns deadlock on access to medicines negotiations

December 21, 2002

The rich countries today successfully blocked efforts to improve access to affordable medicines in the developing world.

"Today, rich countries blocked a small change to WTO patent rules which had been mandated by their own ministers a year ago in Doha. The rich countries are acting in bad faith and reneging on their promise to put health before profits." says OXFAM.

The US as well as the EU, Canada, and Switzerland are responsible for the failure to meet the end-2002 deadline set by the Doha Declaration.

They have put developing-countries' governments under enormous political pressure to concede ground, and to prolong negotiations at the WTO as long as possible in order to wear down their resolve. But developing countries have refused to cave in to the outrageous demand by the United States that only of handful of infectious diseases be covered under this change. Even though the EU has presented itself as the broker in the middle, its proposals have been consistently unacceptable. Worse, it has sided with the United States on the question of the scope of diseases.

"The fact that ambassadors of the EU and the US argued that developing countries should not have access to affordable generic drugs for asthma and diabetes - which kill and debilitate millions in these countries - proves that profits still come before people's lives and that the WTO has powers totally beyond its competence" says Celine Charveriat, OXFAM representative in Geneva.

The lack of progress on this issue, combined with lack of progress on other matters of great importance for developing countries, such as reform of agricultural trade and better market access for textiles, is evidence that there is very little development in the so-called Doha Development Round.

"Rich-country governments choosing to please powerful lobbies is undermining the WTO much more effectively than any protesters." commented Charveriat.

Celine Charveriat
Head of Advocacy Office in Geneva
OXFAM International
15 rue des Savoises
1205 Geneva
tel: 0041-22-321-23-71
cell: 0041-79-668-6477
fax: 0041-22-321-27-53

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