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Note by James Love on April 1, 2002 via IP-Health email list regarding the letter below (archived link of the note here):
This these are scans of Pascal Lamy’s March 20 letter to TACD regarding the Doha export issue. Highlights: (a) He does indicate the EU is willing to address problems faced by countries that do have have patents in place, and (b) he says it is “not appropriate” to address problems faced by countries such as New Zealand or Korea that face abusive prices on products they cannot efficiently manufacture domestically.
RECEIVED 26 Mar 2002
Pascal Lamy Rue de la Loi, 200
Membre de la Commission Europeenne B-1049 Bruxelles
IG/mem D(2002) 634
Thank you for your letter of 15 February, 2002 addressing the important issue set out in paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration of TRIPS and Public Health.
At the TRIPS Council Held in Geneva from 5-7 March 2002, WTO Members started the discussions on how to solve the issue as addressed in the Declaration. It is our firm belief that this issue has to be settled this year in order to ensure that a workable solution is applicable and available to the countries concerned as soon as possible. We regret that this could not be settled at Doha. Our Member States and a large number of WTO Members are of the same opinion.
It is worth noting that the debate only reached a very preliminary stage in Geneva at the recent meeting of the TRIPS Council. The recent Communication from the European Communities and the Member States to the TRIPS Council was, in fact, the only formal written submission presented at the TRIPS Council and by far the most forward-looking contribution in terms of exploring approaches for a solution. It was generally welcomed, especially by developing countries who stressed the open nature of it. WTO Members were encouraged to table concrete proposals for discussion at the next TRIPS Council in June.
In your letter you point to the narrow framing of the problem at hand as set out in the Doha Declaration. You will have noted that in our recent Communication from the European Communities and the Member States to the TRIPS Council, we have indicated that we are ready to look into this matter even in the absence of a patent system or of patents for specific products. Furthermore, we are also open minded as far as the possible product coverage is concerned.
You further mention that this issue is not specific for developing countries. It is a fact that many developed countries do not possess manufacturing facilities for many drugs. That, however, does not prevent them from access as they can afford to purchase the drugs abroad. However, the specific concerns of developing countries’ needs to balance health policies and TRIPS obligations are specifically the subject of the Declaration and, therefore, I would say that it would not be appropriate to include developed countries to benefit from the solution to be agreed. Also, you should not forget that this entire debate was launched with a view to providing access to medicines to poor populations.
As we need a consensus amongst the 144 WTO members, it is clear that we are a long way from a solution to this problem and that the process that will follow from here onwards will give you amply opportunities to put forwards your views both in respect of which solutions are thought most appropriate and on details such as conditions and safeguards. I have taken note of the resolutions adopted by TACD. I stand ready to discuss this issue further in this framework.
Mr. Ben Wallis TACD Coordinator
24 Highbury Crescent