Lost in the noise

More than two years ago I wrote a paper on the Doha declaration on the TRIPS agreement, part of the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks. The TRIPS agreement basically reiterated the right of poor countries to reproduce low-cost versions of medications for their citizens without being subject to patent violation claims (the likes of which are discussed at WTO talks). These rights had been set out in the previous round of talks, but drug companies had found loopholes to prevent low-cost medications from being produced. This declaration was intended to remove any ambiguity or loopholes from the TRIPS agreement:

The TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent Members from taking measures to protect public health. Accordingly, while reiterating our commitment to the TRIPS Agreement, we affirm that the Agreement can and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of WTO Members’ right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all. [Wikipedia]

The Doha round of talks have been going on since 2001 and, as the Economist reported last week, are essentially deadlocked. They’ll likely collapse some time in the next year. Of course there are hundreds of agreements, tariffs and arrangements covered in the Doha round, but this topic seemed to me to go beyond trade. The humanitarian implications are staggering, and yet the story of probable failure of the Doha round will be lost in the financial markets meltdown.

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