Letter from Reps. Rangel, Levin, Matsui, McDermott and Payne to U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick Concerning the Scope of Diseases to Be Covered by Solution to Paragraph Six Problem

December 20, 2002

The Honorable Robert Zoellick
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20508

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

We understand that the Council for the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is nearing a final Decision on the implementation of paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health (the “Doha TRIPS Declaration”). The challenge before the WTO is how to achieve the most appropriate balance between assisting developing countries – and, in particular, the least developed, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa – in their effort to address serious public health problems, while at the same time maintaining strong trade rules that promote innovation by protecting intellectual property.

It appears that the primary issue outstanding is the appropriate scope of public health problems covered by a waiver contemplated in the Decision. We believe that the scope should not be limited to “epidemics” such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and other similar “infectious epidemics,” but the language of the Decision should allow developing countries to adequately address other serious public health problems. An approach that overly restricts the provision would in practice place a prohibitively heavy – and in our view, unjustified – burden on a least developed country struggling to deal with a serious public health problem. Because serious public health problems will differ over time and by country, it would be useful to establish a consultative process involving health ministries and other competent authorities to assist in identifying serious public health problems.

We are willing to work with you and the Administration on this vital set of issues, which for millions of people is a matter of life and death. We believe that appropriate trade rules are critical, but only part of the answer and that broader international initiatives, and substantially increased bilateral assistance, must also be part of the solution.


Charles B. Rangel
Ranking Democrat
Committee on Ways and Means

Sander M. Levin
Ranking Democrat
Subcommittee on Trade
Committee on Ways and Means

Robert T. Matsui
Committee on Ways and Means

Jim McDermott
Committee on Ways and Means

Donald M. Payne
Member of Congress

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