The TRIPS-Legality of Measures Taken to Address Public Health Crises: Responding to USTR-State-Industry Positions That Undermine the WTO
THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF ROBERT E. HUDEC 311, D. Kennedy and J. Southwick eds., Cambridge University Press, 2002
32 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2011
Date Written: February 12, 2001
The main WTO law-related focus of this essay is the treatment of compulsory licensing and parallel trade under the TRIPS Agreement, with emphasis on the AIDS crisis confronting Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world. There are two principal reasons for addressing this subject matter in some detail. First, and paramount, is the exigency of the present situation. Africa in particular, and developing countries in general, are facing a public health crisis of catastrophic proportions, and there is an urgency to assuring that the WTO acts to aid in addressing this crisis, and does not take steps to hinder governments as they seek to address it. Second, the conduct of the United States government and the pharmaceutical industry threatens the very fabric of the WTO - an institution that was formed to promote economic growth and peaceful trade relations following the Second World War. While the essential reasons for the WTO are today often obscured by rhetoric concerning its impact on non-trade concerns, the fact that the WTO provides the foundation for peaceful relations in world trade should not be overlooked. By acting irresponsibly, the US government undermines the WTO by providing ammunition to its critics. An institution designed to do good is portrayed as doing bad.
The decision by the United States government to use its economic power as a weapon against developing countries fighting a battle against a deadly plague would plausibly lead developing country government officials and common citizens to question the economic, social, and political foundations of the TRIPS Agreement. Would any developing country government deliberately negotiate away its discretion to take measures to redress a health crisis of the most severe magnitude? Indeed, would any government or any group of citizens deliberately enter into a legal agreement condemning itself to early death?
Keywords: TRIPS Agreement, access to medicines, compulsory license, HIV-AIDS
JEL Classification: I18, K33, O34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation