Organization members on Tuesday approved measures to make it
easier for developing countries to get cheaper generic
versions of medicines for communicable diseases like
HIV. Changes to the WTO's intellectual property
agreement would make permanent a waiver currently in
place and allow poor countries without their own
pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities to import
cheaper copies of patented medicines for humanitarian
"confirms once again that members are determined to
ensure the WTO's trading system contributes to humanitarian
and development goals as they prepare for the Hong
Kong ministerial conference," said WTO
director-general Pascal Lamy.
meeting is supposed to set up a conclusion to the current
Doha round of trade talks, which aims to cut trade barriers
across a wide range of sectors and is supposed to
address the needs of developing countries.
"The amendment is
designed to match the 2003 waiver as closely as
possible," the WTO said in a statement. "In order to achieve
this, delegations have been involved in intricate legal
discussions aimed at ensuring that the legal meaning
and weight, and the hierarchy of provisions, are
preserved as exactly as possible."
WTO members have
set December 1, 2007, as a deadline to ratify the
amendment, the organization said. It would need to be
approved by two thirds of the 148 members. The waiver
remains in force until then.
"This is a
landmark achievement that we hope will help developing
countries devastated by HIV/AIDS and other public health
crises," said U.S. trade representative Rob Portman.
aid group Doctors Without Borders said the waiver, which
the agreement will replace, has failed to prove it can
increase access to medicines.
"To date there is
no experience using the mechanism--not one patient
has benefited from its use--despite the fact that
newer medicines, such as second-line AIDS drugs, are
priced out of reach of poor patients," the
organization said in a statement. "This decision shows that
the WTO is ignoring the day-to-day reality of drug
production and procurement." (AP)