TRIPS agreement will not save lives

Mauro Guarinieri, for HIV i-Base

When I read the final version of the paragraph six solution dated 30 August 2003, it was difficult to believe that any country and particularly developing countries in their right senses would have agreed to such a charter for slavery.

The TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) Agreement, right from its very beginning, had nothing to do with innovation or scientific advancement but was a treaty signed through coercion and blackmail for market control, market dominance, market segmentation and market exclusion.

The TRIPS Agreement, crafted in close consultation with the pharmaceutical industry, succeeded absolutely in this respect. The paragraph six solution has reinforced the market exclusion of the developing countries. They cannot export any product to another developing country without being closely watched and monitored. The outcome will be that countries in need of affordable medicine will be essentially unable to implement the ‘solution’, because it contains too many unnecessary conditions and restrictions.

“This ‘solution’ is a failure for people with AIDS, and people everywhere dying of treatable diseases,” said Asia Russell of Health GAP. “The current solution is designed to placate US drug companies and guarantee ever-expanding market share, not to increase access to affordable generic medicines for dying people”, she added.

The original intention of the talks was to facilitate the supply of affordable generic drugs for developing countries. However, the agreement has thrown up new legal, economic, and political obstacles to ensuring production and export of generic medicines in the future:

Extra anti-diversion measures

One of the worst features of the 30 August paragraph six solution is that pertaining to the diversion of products made for countries not having the manufacturing capacity. The statement puts further demands on packaging and labelling that are likely to increase the cost rather than reduce it. The extra requirements on diversion seem to be exclusively aimed at further discouraging countries and producers from using the system.

New powers to TRIPS Council

The statement introduces an extended role for the TRIPS Council and the WTO in policing the system. The WTO secretariat, the TRIPS Council and the Chair of the TRIPS Council will now begin to routinely review the issuing of individual licences, and the WTO will now as a matter of expected practice, oversee the use of compulsory licensing in the most intimate terms, looking at the terms of individual licences, evaluating the basis for deciding if manufacturing capacity is insufficient, or reviewing or second guessing any of the new terms and obligations that the new implementation language introduces into the regulation of compulsory licensing of patents on medicines.

“The people who negotiated this agreement have given the world a new model for explicitly endorsing protectionism,” said James Love, from the Consumer Project on Technology. “The United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and other developed economies will be allowed to bar imports from developing country generic suppliers under completely irrational protectionist measures that are defended by the WTO Secretariat and its most powerful members as a humanitarian gesture,” he added.

EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy already started to misuse the deal: “This is a crucial demonstration that the Doha Development Agenda is more than just fine words.” Lamy attacked a position endorsed by his own parliament that was a far more elegant and rational solution to the export issue. The European Parliament Amendment 196 was 52 words long. The new WTO deal has more than 3,200 words. The extra 3,150 words were not needed and will create a morass of uncertainty and gamesmanship.

“Today, countries can use compulsory licences for import, because a supply of generic versions of many drugs is available somewhere on the world market,” said Celine Charveriat of Oxfam. “What Members do not seem to take into account is that the burdensome system being put in place does nothing to ensure that generic production will happen in the future. Rather, developing countries will have little alternative to the high prices and long-term monopolies of brand-name pharmaceutical companies.”

Once again, the World Trade Organisation has shown its real face. The WTO still represents the most ambitious and perverted effort to resubjugate the economies of the countries of the South to serve the interests of transnational corporations. Its legacy is greater poverty, inequity, gender inequality, and indebtedness throughout the world. Among many others, AIDS is a silent war that claims six people every minute. These deaths are due to the criminal attitude of wealthy nations and multinational corporations that have constantly ignored the urgency of expanding free and universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS and continuously attempted to erode the reach and strength of the declaration approved by WTO members in Doha. Eight years of the WTO had already produced an unacceptable death toll. Now it is time to say: “Enough is enough”.

On the positive side, the new agreement completely rejects the efforts of the US, Japan, the European Union and the WTO Secretariat to limit the scope of diseases for compulsory licensing, and it also does not require high standards such as epidemics or emergencies.

Mauro Guarinieri, is Chair of the European AIDS Treatment Group


CPTech Statement on WTO deal on exports of medicines

MSF and Oxfam press statement on WTO drugs deal

Health GAP statement on WTO ‘consensus’ on access to medicines

The approved text, as reported by the WTO:

Joint press release from MSF and Oxfam =3&subcatid=525

Further information:

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