WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

20 December 2002

Supachai disappointed over governments’ failure to agree on health and development issues

Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi today (20 December 2002) expressed disappointment over the failure by WTO member governments to meet the year-end deadlines for agreement in negotiations on special and differential treatment for developing countries and access to essential medicines for poor countries lacking capacity to manufacture such drugs themselves.

“Failure to meet the deadlines in these negotiations has been quite disappointing. These two issues are of great importance not only to developing countries but to the organization itself and to the broader trade negotiations that are part of the Doha Development Agenda,” Dr Supachai said.

“Nonetheless, delegates have informed me of their commitment to continue to work to find agreement in these complex and difficult negotiations. I am hopeful a solution can be found in the early part of 2003. I call on governments to summon the political will and commitment that will be required to bridge their differences on these two issues,” he added.

Ambassador Ransford Smith of Jamaica who chairs the Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development in which the issue of special and differential treatment was discussed, told the WTO’s governing General Council that governments needed more time to finalize these negotiations. General Council Chairman Sergio Marchi of Canada invited Amb. Smith to report back to the Council at its next meeting which is scheduled for 10–11 February 2003.

Ambassador Eduardo Pérez Motta of Mexico who chairs the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) told the General Council that intensive consultations had not resolved differences over the diseases that would be covered by the draft decision on intellectual property and health.

He proposed that the TRIPS Council should restart its deliberations as soon as possible in the new year with the aim of reaching an agreement by the first meeting of the General Council in 2003, scheduled for 10–11 February.

WTO members have been trying to meet a year-end deadline aimed at addressing a problem posed by a provision of the WTO’s intellectual property agreement (Article 31(f) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS).

This says that production under compulsory licensing must be predominantly for the domestic market, which hinders countries lacking manufacturing capacity from importing cheaper generics from countries where pharmaceuticals are patented.

Agreement on this would complete the mandate set by the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001, when a special ministerial declaration on TRIPS and Public Health was issued.

For more information:
Work on special and differential treatment provisions
The Doha Declaration explained
The Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health
TRIPS and pharmaceutical patents