The workshop was organized by the WTO Secretariat, in close collaboration with the secretariats of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

In his opening remarks, Deputy Director-General Xiaozhun Yi said: “The recognition of the need for policy coherence and complementarity has been guiding our trilateral cooperation with colleagues from the WHO and WIPO for many years. In 2013, the study on Promoting Access to Medical Technologies: Intersections between Public Health, Intellectual Property and Trade emphasized the need for a holistic approach when working on the interface between health and trade.” DDG Yi’s full speech is available here.

The programme of the workshop covered the link between trade and public health in a multidisciplinary manner. Participants were exposed to various policy dimensions and links between the WTO agreements and public health. The objective was to build their capacity to analyse and formulate practical and coherent policy choices at the interface between trade and public health.

Tailored for senior policymakers, the workshop included a combination of expert presentations, interactive debates on cross-cutting themes linking trade agreements to topical issues, such as non-communicable diseases and human rights, and case studies. In addition to an introductory panel discussion that mapped the interface between health, trade and intellectual property, other topics covered included:

  • economics of innovation and access to health technologies
  • public health determinants
  • the intellectual property system as a determinant for innovation and access
  • pricing and procurement policies
  • competition policy and rules
  • health services
  • the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement
  • health-related provisions in regional trade agreements
  • regulatory issues, including approval, quality control and effectiveness of medicines, the protection of clinical trial data under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and health-related measures in the WTO’s committees dealing with technical barriers to trade (TBT, which deals with product standards, regulations and labelling) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS, i.e. food safety and animal and plant health)     

This year’s programme also included a one‑day training session dedicated to the mechanism that allows WTO members to grant special compulsory licences for export of medicines (“Paragraph 6” System). Given the imminent entry into force of the TRIPS Amendment, the objective of this session was to discuss the best and most practical way to use the Paragraph 6 System to secure access to affordable medicines.

The 35 participants had either health, trade or intellectual property backgrounds and came from: Albania, Australia, Burundi, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Malawi, Mexico, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Serbia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, United States and Viet Nam.

In their feedback, participants welcomed the workshop as a “real eye opener” regarding the different policy dimensions that needed to be pulled together in order to make trade agreements respond effectively to public health concerns. The good mix of substantive issues, as well as of participants with different backgrounds was highly appreciated. In particular, participants welcomed the possibility to learn from colleagues and thought that the workshop offered an excellent opportunity to better understand each other.

A participant from Cuba said: “I wish the course could be expanded to two weeks. Very interesting practical experiences were provided by the speakers and the case method was instructive to exchange experiences amongst participants.” A participant from Serbia commented: “I am an intellectual property lawyer and have not dealt so much with health-related trade issues. This workshop has expanded my perspectives.”

This workshop was the latest in a series of events that began in 2005. It broadly followed the approach developed in the WHO-WIPO-WTO trilateral study “Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation: Intersections between public health, intellectual property and trade”, which was published in 2013.

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