TRIPS AND PUBLIC HEALTH
In his opening remarks, WTO Deputy Director-General Xiaozhun Yi said: “The importance of health is highlighted by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 3, which calls upon the international community to 'ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages'. It puts the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in a central place to support both research and development of new medicines and access to affordable medicines. The WTO is committed to making its contribution to the achievement of this goal and this Workshop certainly is an integral part of our efforts.” DDG Yi's full speech is available here.
The programme of the workshop has evolved over the last 12 years to cover the link between trade and public health in a holistic and multidisciplinary manner. It is tailored to strengthen the capacity of senior policy makers to analyse and formulate practical and coherent policy choices. Thirty-six expert speakers shared their experience and facilitated interactive debates on cross-cutting themes linking trade agreements to topical issues, such as antimicrobial resistance and non-communicable diseases. Participants also contributed actively to case studies.
A particular feature of this year's programme was a one‑day session dedicated to "Making Effective Use of Special Compulsory Licences for Export: A Procurement Tool for Medicines". Following the entry into force of the amended TRIPS Agreement in January 2017, this session responded to calls from WTO members to discuss the best and most practical way to use the special compulsory licensing mechanism, now a permanent part of TRIPS, to secure access to affordable medicines.
The 32 participants are currently working in health, trade or intellectual property areas and came from: Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Ukraine, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The group also included two participants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and a representative from the World Health Organization.
In their feedback, participants welcomed the workshop as a useful tool to look at public health challenges through different lenses. This will help them to navigate through the different policy dimensions that needed to be pulled together in order to ensure policy coherence so that trade agreements respond effectively to public health concerns. Also, the good mix of substantive issues covered as well as of participants with different backgrounds was highly appreciated. In particular, participants welcomed the possibility to learn from policy makers and technical experts, as well as from colleagues, and stressed that the workshop offered an excellent opportunity to better understand each other.
The workshop was organized by the WTO Secretariat, in close collaboration with the Secretariats of the WHO and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). It 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” (2013).
The next such workshop will be organized in the autumn of 2018. To respond to the demand of Members, the WTO will also be holding similar training events at regional level. The first such activity will take place in Brasilia from 21 to 23 November 2017 for countries from the Latin American region.