[Ip-health] 8 March 2017 - Statement of the World Trade Organization - HRC 34 - Panel on Access to Medicines

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Mar 8 23:51:00 PST 2017


8 March 2017 - Statement of the World Trade Organization - HRC 34 - Panel
on Access to Medicines


Submitted by thiru <http://keionline.org/user/6> on 9. March 2017 - 9:44

On 8 March 2017, the World Trade Organization delivered the following
statement at the Human Rights Council's panel on Access to Medicines.

WTO statement – Antony Taubman

It’s an honour for the WTO Secretariat to join this distinguished panel.
Today’s discussion is a welcome step forward in the journey together
towards the shared goal of access to medicines for all, and promoting the
development of urgently needed new medicines, recognizing the centrality of
the human rights perspective for this collective effort.

For the WTO, the Doha Declaration was a significant milestone on this same
journey. Unanimously, at the highest political level, Doha framed the
legal, practical and policy context of TRIPS squarely within a public
health setting. Doha remains a benchmark for policymakers today, all the
more pertinent in the light of the SDGs, the growing complex of regional
and bilateral trade agreements, and the renewed multilateral dialogue
exemplified by the very Resolution that established this panel. In 2001,
the then High Commissioner for Human Rights called for closer links between
the promotion and protection of human rights and TRIPS. So today's dialogue
has deep roots, and perhaps Doha did help to define the path ahead.

Certainly, the Doha Declaration has taken us far – it’s the basis for the
current TRIPS exemption for LDCs until well past the SDG target date, and
for the TRIPS amendment which, since its recent entry into force, gives
legal certainty to an additional pathway for access to affordable
medicines. The coherent, health-centred view that Doha promotes has also
guided a great deal of practical action. Our technical assistance and
policy dialogue in this area are ever more collaborative and inclusive,
while remaining focussed on strengthening the self sufficient capacity of
developing countries themselves to identify, review and implement the full
range of policy options to meet their public health needs and priorities.
We are far from complacent, however, and recognize the need to further
strengthen coordination and collaboration across the multilateral system:
each agency and program has much experience and expertise to offer.

Trilateral (WHO WIPO WTO) cooperation manifests this holistic, inclusive
approach, a conscious effort by three specialised agencies, led directly by
their Directors General, to work towards policy and practical coherence for
public health, including recognition of the human rights dimension. One
trilateral initiative, a joint study, expressly framed the access and
innovation equation within a human rights context and articulated a wide
range of policy measures and practical experiences. It was produced as a
practical toolkit, as an exercise in full transparency, and as a template
for coherent, comprehensive and fact based technical assistance. But it’s
only one illustration of a diverse pattern of multilateral collaboration,
both in Geneva and in the field, to support governments as they pursue
diverse paths to promote access and innovation – recalling “the many ways
towards the full realization” of the right to health mentioned in
Resolution 32/15. For instance, our annual flagship capacity building
workshop on Trade and Health – modelled on the holistic approach of the
trilateral study – has addressed the human rights dimension of access and
innovation, including a briefing on the UNSG’s HLP report. The WTO
submission to the UNSG’s High Level Panel offers a more detailed discussion
of the challenges of coherence.

WTO members have shown continuing engagement with these issues in the TRIPS
Council, drawing on the trilateral study, and recently also addressing the
High Level Panel report. The Council is well placed to serve as a forum for
governments to share and review experiences and new measures for medicines
access and innovation, a policy role earlier recognised in Sub-Commission
on Human Rights Resolution 21 of 2001.

Since Doha, we now have a much greater wealth of experience and data that
can set the multilateral policy framework in a practical, operational
light. Doha clarified the parameters of the available policy space - but
left open the practical question of how best to navigate through that
policy space; how best to flex those flexibilities. Multilateral
collaboration for technical assistance and policy support would benefit
from a more systematic empirical foundation: distilling lessons from the
full range of practical experience in financing, procuring and developing
medicines and other medical technologies, at international, national and
program levels; and guided by globally inclusive data on patent coverage,
regulatory measures, prices, actual access to medicines and the future
epidemiological outlook. No single set of policy prescriptions can apply
identically for all UN Member States and WTO Members. But building an
information platform would support all governments as they confront the
daunting health challenges that lie ahead, assisting them to make effective
use of their rights and the flexibilities within the system, and to fulfil
their related human rights responsibilities.

TRIPS flexibilities in a wider context

The focus has been very much on TRIPS, and TRIPS plus measures, and I do
not mean in any way to diminish that focus. However, if we are looking at
trade agreements overall it is important to recognize that TRIPS policy
options and flexibilities do not function in isolation from other policy
settings - procurement policy and practice (use of TRIPS flexibilities is,
after all, part of a medicines procurement strategy); competition policy (a
vital element in ensuring the public health benefits of generic pricing);
pricing policy; and wider trade settings (bearing in mind that obstacles,
costs and delays in trade disproportionately and gravely affect the more
vulnerable countries most dependant on trade for their medicines needs.

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