USTR to “clarify” its position on extension of LDC transition period for TRIPS

On June 11, 2011, KEI published KEI Policy Brief 2011:1, which was titled: “White House and European Commission trade official oppose waiver of drug patents for Least Developed Countries (LDCs).”

On July 29, 2011, KEI, MSF, Public Citizen and Oxfam wrote to Ambassador Ron Kirk, requesting USTR to reconsider the position taken in the 2011 Special 301 Report, regarding the Least Developed Country compliance with the TRIPS Agreement. A copy of that letter is available here.

On November 29, 2011, Ambassador Kirk sent a reply. (Copy of the reply is available here).

Ambassador Kirk defended the language in the Special 301 report about LDC countries, but he said:

I also believe that your letter points to an opportunity to clarify further the relevant language in future reports. I have therefore instructed my staff to update and clarify the 2012 Special 301 report to reduce the chances that readers might misunderstand underlying U.S. positions. My staff would welcome your suggestions on how best to do that, or on any other relevant matter, as part of the upcoming public comment process leading to the 2012 Special 301 Report.

I can also assure you that I am sympathetic to the many challenges faced by our LDC trading partners in implementing obligations under the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. In this spirt, the United States, working closely with LDCs, supported the TRIPS Council consensus of November 17 on a draft decision for adoption at the upcoming WTO Ministerial on December 15, 17, inviting the Council to consider fully LDCs’ request for an extension of the TRIPS Agreement transition period for implementation.

The November 17, 2011 TRIPS Council agreement is set out in IP/C/59/Add.2. The operative paragraph reads:

4. The Council agreed to submit the following text to the General Council with the recommendation that it be forwarded to the Eighth Session of the Ministerial Conference for its consideration:

“Ministers invite the TRIPS Council to give full consideration to a duly motivated request from Least Developed Country Members for an extension of their transition period under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement, and report thereon to the WTO Ninth Ministerial Conference.”

This language, which means very little, was approved at the 8th Ministerial meeting.

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