Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Talks on drug patents at the World Trade Organization stalled Wednesday when negotiators failed to resolve one of the most divisive issues among developed and developing countries.
Negotiators in Geneva were scheduled to wrap up intellectual-property-rights discussions Wednesday but, unable to work out details, agreed to suspend the meeting until today.
WTO members are trying to hammer out an agreement that would allow poor countries access to generic drugs while protecting the intellectual property rights of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies.
A source close to the talks said progress was "extremely difficult."
As part of the Doha Development Agenda, agreed to last year during a meeting in Qatar's capital, WTO members said international patent rules on specific drugs should allow poor countries facing health emergencies access to generic drugs, which are less expensive than brand-name counterparts.
The WTO's 144 member nations set a year-end deadline to resolve the matter.
Negotiators have not given up hope, but they are not optimistic.
"We're going to have a difficult time coming to an agreement," said a U.S. trade source, who asked not to be named.
The sides are hung up on who should be able to access the generic drugs, where the pharmaceuticals would be produced and what kinds of diseases would spur a waiver on patent protections.
U.S. negotiators said they want to restrict the waivers to poor countries that are facing epidemics. Some developing countries that could capitalize on looser rules want to be able to produce a wider variety of products and sell them to a broader class of developing countries.
The move to liberalize intellectual property rules beyond the scope of the original agreement has been an "assault on pharmaceutical protections by some countries," the U.S. trade source …