The meeting is at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center

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3rd WTO MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE
Top 10 Reasons to Oppose the World Trade Organization?
Criticism, yes … misinformation, no!

More incorrect facts about the WTO found on websites:    
 

 

5. ‘The WTO is killing people’

 
The accusation

“The WTO's fierce defense of intellectual property rights — patents, copyrights and trademarks — comes at the expense of health and human lives [1]. The organization's support for pharmaceutical companies against governments [2] seeking to protect their people's health has had serious implications for places like sub-Saharan Africa, where 80 percent of the world's new AIDS cases are found. The US government, on behalf of US drug companies, is trying to block developing countries' access to less expensive, generic, life-saving drugs. For example, the South African government has been threatened with a WTO challenge over proposed national health laws that would encourage the use of generic drugs [3], ban the practice of manufacturers offering economic incentives to doctors who prescribe their products [4] and institute ‘parallel importing,’ which allows companies to import drugs from other countries where the drugs are cheaper [5].

 

The reality

1. The need to protect health and human life is built into the WTO agreement on intellectual property rights.

2. The organization cannot support pharmaceutical companies against governments because the WTO is run only by governments, and decisions in favour of or against a member government are reached only by consensus among those governments.

3. There is nothing in the WTO intellectual property agreement which prevents or discourages the use of generic drugs. (Similarly, requiring a government to offer patent protection for new inventions does not mean the government has to allow the invention to be used.)

4. Totally false, such a ban would not violate WTO agreements.

5. Parallel importing (and compulsory licensing) are clearly allowed under the WTO's intellectual property agreement, particularly in national emergencies. South Africa has cited these rules.

(Some see this kind of argument as a benefit of the WTO — smaller countries can use the WTO's rules to defend themselves against pressure from the more powerful. They can also use the rules to save lives.)

While opinions differ about some of the details — e.g. on compulsory licensing and what developing countries should be allowed to do for their healthcare needs — there is no question that patent protection for pharmaceuticals has helped with the discovery of new drugs and has therefore helped to save lives.

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The accusations

1. The WTO only serves the interests of multinational corporations
2. 
The WTO is a stacked court
3. 
The WTO tramples over labor and human rights
4. 
The WTO is destroying the environment
5. The WTO is killing people
6. 
The US adoption of the WTO was undemocratic
7. 
The WTO undermines local development and penalizes poor countries
8. 
The WTO is increasing inequality
9. 
The WTO undermines national sovereignty
10. 
The tide is turning against free trade and the WTO!

Find out more

In the booklet, Seattle: What’s at stake?
Concerns … and responses (1)
Concerns … and responses (2)

On the main WTO website
10 Common Misunderstandings about the WTO

 


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