segunda-feira, julho 18, 2005
Durão Barroso vs Bush na guerra das patentes?
Time for Mandelson to face the global AIDS epidemic
By Khalil Elouardighi and Lital Hollander
The European Voice - July 7 2005
Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has inherited from his predecessor a critical and highly sensitive dossier on pharmaceutical patents and access to medicines in developing countries.
Just lately the debate on access to affordable, life-saving AIDS medication flared up again when the European Parliament issued its main report on a proposed regulation to help poor countries overcome problems in access to medicines. The debate cannot be ignored since many lives depend on its successful outcome.
The proposal is intended to allow European generic drug manufacturers to bypass pharmaceutical patents for the specific humanitarian purpose of exporting cheap medicines to poor countries in health crises. But the same European generic industry has harshly criticised the proposal, describing the mechanism as too complicated, too restrictive and too ambiguous to attract actual use. It has also urged the European Commission to take action against US bilateral trade agreements with developing countries, known as 'WTO+' agreements, which forbid them to resort to generic medicines.
In 2001, at a World Trade Organization (WTO) summit, the then trade commissioner Pascal Lamy played a crucial role in securing a unanimous deal on the 'flexibilities' contained in the 1994 international agreement on intellectual property rights. The deal recognised the developing countries' right to override drug patents in order to foster competition in the pharmaceutical market - a sure-fire means to bring prices down and make medicines more accessible for the poor.
But the 2001 multilateral deal is being progressively undone by the US' policy of WTO+ agreements. The way these bilateral agreements nullify the 2001 WTO deal brokered by Europe is that they create new monopolies on medicines on top of those brought by drug patents. These new monopolies, unlike drug patents, are not open to government over-ride in times of crisis.
Vulnerable states such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Chile and Morocco have already signed away their hard-won right to bypass drug patents where necessary to protect public health. And the US is now lining up Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland to sign such bilateral agreements - states where up to 42% of the adult population is infected with the AIDS virus.
Lamy publicly condemned the inclusion by the US of WTO+ provisions in the intellectual property chapters of bilateral trade agreements - most notably during the WTO summit in Mexico two years ago. But the US did not relent. In January 2004, Brazil was forced to break off negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas, citing unacceptable US demands in the intellectual property chapter. Still the US has not relented - and disastrous results are expected. Earlier this year, the WTO warned against the possible regression in global accessibility of affordable medicines due to bilateral trade agreements.
Despite this background Peter Mandelson, though alerted by non-governmental organisations, UN bodies, and some EU member states, has yet to make known the new Commission's position on this life-or-death matter.
At a time when Tony Blair, the new president of the European Council, is pressing his G8 counterparts for universal access to AIDS treatment by 2010 (announced in April in his re-election campaign manifesto) and when the snowballing AIDS crisis has already killed nearly 30 million people worldwide, Mandelson can no longer wait. He must take a public stance now, before the WTO General Council later this month.
The Commission's position must be coherent with the EU commitment to global access to affordable AIDS medication, reflected by its role as main contributor to the Global Fund. The policy set out by Lamy, placing healthcrises of the magnitude of the AIDS epidemic clearly above intellectual property rights, cannot be weakened in the face of this bad-faith trade behaviour on the part of the US. On the contrary, Mandelson must courageously seek from his American counterpart accountability on the US' multilateral commitment to facilitate global access to medicines.
Khalil Elouardighi is an international advocacy officer at ACT UP-Paris, a French AIDS organisation. Lital Hollander chairs the policy working group at the European AIDS Treatment Group.