KEI urges investigation of trade pressures on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in light of Executive Order 13155

Knowledge Ecology International sent letters today (attached to this release), September 21, 2015, to the Office of the General Counsel to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Commerce, asking that they investigate USTR and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the potential violation of an Executive Order issued by Bill Clinton — which prohibits the use of trade pressures to hinder polices related to access to HIV/AIDS medicines in sub-Saharan Africa — in their attempt to stop a request by Least Developed Countries (LDCs) at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for an exception to international intellectual property obligations related to pharmaceutical patents.

On February 23, 2015, the LDC group submitted a “duly motivated” request to the WTO asking that they indefinitely extend a waiver that exempts LDCs from granting patents on pharmaceutical products. The LDC request would create an exception to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for LDCs for as long as they remain classified as such by the United Nations, and allow them to continue to manufacture and import inexpensive generic drugs. The TRIPS requires that the WTO grant any “duly motivated” request by LDCs for such a waiver.

The European Commission of the European Union recently supported this exemption for LDCs, which comprise the poorest countries in the world. LDCs represent thirteen percent of the world’s population, but only one percent of the world’s income.

KEI has heard reports that United States trade negotiators with USTR are pressuring LDCs to drop their request, in secret bilateral talks leading up to the October 15, 2015, meeting of the TRIPS Council in Geneva, which will make a recommendation on the LDC request to the Tenth WTO Ministerial Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, this December.

The letter to the General Counsel at USTR and the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce asks that they investigate those trade pressures as potential violations of Executive Order 13155, issued on May 10, 2000, by President Bill Clinton, which prohibits the United States from seeking “through negotiation or otherwise, the revocation of any intellectual property law or policy” that is compliant with TRIPS “of a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country, as determined by the President, that regulates HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals or medical technologies.”

As the letter notes, the LDC request “included specific reference to the high burden of HIV in LDC’s, citing statistics that in 2011 9.7 million of the of 34 million HIV patients worldwide lived in LDC’s, and that exemption from the WTO obligations with regard to patents on pharmaceuticals is necessary for the access of affordable medicines.” 34 LDCs are located in sub-Saharan Africa, and many of them are covered by the Executive Order.

Andrew S. Goldman, Counsel for Policy & Legal Affairs at Knowledge Ecology International, said, “President Clinton enacted his executive order in order to prevent the kind of pressure that U.S. agencies are allegedly placing on LDCs to abandon or narrow a request grounded in the need to access affordable medicines. It is unfathomable that President Obama wants to conclude his Presidency by siding with drug companies against a group of countries the UN considers to be ‘Least Developed,’ and where two of three persons don’t even have electricity, and where health care spending was just $47 per person in 2014.”


SEPTEMBER 21, 2015
CONTACT: Zack Struver
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