[Ip-health] White House and European Commission trade official oppose waiver of drug patents for Least Developed Countries (LDCs)

Jamie Love james.love at keionline.org
Mon Jun 13 04:07:17 PDT 2011

This policy brief, which includes some tables and graphs, and best
read from the web page.  I have include some parts of the text.


KEI Policy Brief 2011:1

In May 2011, USTR head Ambassador Ron Kirk wants Least Developed
Countries to "implement their TRIPS Agreement obligations for patent
and data protection for pharmaceutical products" by 2016.

 . . . the Obama White House and Europe's top trade official, Karl De
Gucht, are now both opposing a proposal to extend a WTO deadline to
implement patent and test data rules on pharmaceutical drugs in "Least
Developed Countries."


 "Least Developed Countries" are a subset of developing countries. The
UN refers to them as the "poorest and weakest" of the poor and weak.
The decision to target such countries is an appalling shift in policy.

"Some developing countries are making considerable progress, in terms
of governance and economic growth. Others are so poor and unstable the
term "developing" is inadequate to describe their perilous condition.
For the countries at the bottom, the UN created the category: "Least
Developed Countries" or LDCs. Traditionally, countries defined as LDCs
are eligible for special and differential treatment.

"To put things into perspective, Hati is the only country in Western
Hemisphere that qualifies as an LDC. Poor countries such as Bolivia
and Nicaragua are too well off to qualify. In Africa, Kenya, Cameroon
and Côte d’Ivoire are also too well off. In Asia, countries like
China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia are too well off.
LDC's are countries like Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda or Cambodia.


"In 2009, these 48 countries had a combined population of 837 million,
and an average per capita income of $639, just 1.7 percent of the
average in high income countries. Collectively, LDC countries had
about 12.4 percent of the global population, but just .9 percent of
global income.


"Some 9.2 million persons in LDCs are living with HIV, nearly 28
percent of the global total of 33.3 million Beginning in 2003, as
donors began to fund treatment programs for AIDS, LDC countries began
to look like a market, and there has been a significant expansion of
patent filing in LDC countries. However, someone needs to pick up the
phone and talk to Ron Kirk and Karl De Gucht and explain who those
donors are (mostly taxpayers in the U.S. and Europe), and why it is a
mistake to drive up the price of AIDS drugs, at a moment when the
international community is struggling to meet commitments to fund HIV
treatment programs.


"Nils Daulaire of DHHS, Rajiv Shah of USAID, David Kappos of USPTO and
members of Congress were consulted on the USTR decision to push for
patents on pharmaceutical drugs in LDC countries.


There is an appalling disconnect between the policies embraced by USTR
and DG-Trade, and the interests of the taxpaying and voting public in
those countries. To the extent that taxpayers in the United States and
Europe are now responsible for funding global treatment efforts for
HIV/AIDs and other global health problems, high prices for HIV/AIDS
medicines are a negative, rather than a positive, even from the
perspective of trade policy.

As noted earlier, LDC countries represent just .9 percent of global
incomes. The benefits of ending the WTO LDC waiver on drug patents has
to be negative, for anyone who spends any time looking at the net
impact on taxpayers in the United States and Europe.

USTR and DG-Trade also need to recognize the moral and political
dimension of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

PEPFAR, the Global Fund and UNITAID are now considered successful
programs, generating considerable good will abroad, and popular with
elected officials in different political parties. U.S. taxpayers are
willing to endorse $48 billion in spending on PEPFAR, and European
taxpayers support billions in funding of the Global Fund and UNITAID.
Why should trade officials put these humanitarian programs at risk,
and who do they expect to benefit from an end of the WTO waiver on
drug patents in LDC countries?

What political failures in the United State and Europe have lead to
such failures of policy? Why did the White House back such a wrong
headed policy, and why didn't USAID, DHHS, Treasury, OMB, Commerce or
USPTO intervene? Why is the Congress, struggling to maintain spending
on foreign aid, oblivious to the ramifications of ending the LDC
waiver on drug patents? Why does DG-Trade not see the LDC waiver on
drug patents as essential for keeping EU commitments to achieving
goals regarding access to HIV drugs?


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