Consensus-Seeking, Distrust, and Rhetorical Entrapment: The WTO Decision on Access to Medicines

33 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2009 Last revised: 9 Feb 2014

See all articles by Jean-Frederic Morin

Jean-Frederic Morin

Université Laval - Departement de Science Politique

E. Richard Gold

McGill University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: July 18, 2009

Abstract

While the WTO secretariat, key delegations, several NGOs, and industry publicly present the August 30th 2003 WTO decision as an attempt to reconcile intellectual property with access to medicines, our research shows otherwise. We draw on qualitative analyses of 54 interviews and a lexicometric analysis of press releases to show that their enthusiastic public statements contrast deeply with their internal, cynical beliefs. Most of these actors not only consider the WTO decision to be fundamentally flawed but claim to have known this prior to its adoption. We argue that a procedural norm of consensus-seeking impeded traditional bargaining over this sensitive issue and that distrust among participants hindered truth-seeking deliberation. Caught between strategic and communicative actions, state and non-state actors found themselves trapped in their own rhetoric of reconciling intellectual property with access to medicines. They realized that the appearance of a solution, rather than a functional solution, provided the only realistic solution to a fruitless and publicly damaging continuation of debate. From a theoretical perspective, this case study sheds a new light on the gray zone between rational choice and constructivism, where both discourse and strategies matter. From an empirical perspective, it illustrates the risk of seeking consensus within international regimes when the procedural norm of consensus coexists with a high level of distrust.

Keywords: rhetorical action, access to medicines, trust, patent, habermas

Suggested Citation

Morin, Jean-Frederic and Gold, E. Richard, Consensus-Seeking, Distrust, and Rhetorical Entrapment: The WTO Decision on Access to Medicines (July 18, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1435747 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1435747

Jean-Frederic Morin (Contact Author)

Université Laval - Departement de Science Politique ( email )

Ste-Foy, Quebec G1K 7P4
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://https://ulaval.academia.edu/JeanFredericMorin

E. Richard Gold

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec
Canada

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