Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Toward a New Foreign Policy

Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Toward a New Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

In May 1999 the World Health Assembly, the policymaking body of the World Health Organization (WHO), passed a resolution that declared public health concerns "paramount" in intellectual property issues related to pharmaceuticals. Although Washington had vociferously opposed earlier efforts to obtain passage of a similar resolution that said public health concerns should take priority over commercial matters, the U.S., after insisting on minor changes, voted in support of the 1999 resolution. It is now time for Washington to bring its foreign policy into full compliance with the accepted notion that public health protection is the most important goal in shaping pharmaceutical patent policy.

First, the U.S. should announce that it will terminate all bilateral pressure on Brazil, Argentina, and other countries related to health-related intellectual property disputes. While it was an advance for the U.S. to agree that countries can adopt TRIPS-legal measures to make medicines more available, it should not seek to press TRIPS monopoly patent protections to their limit.

Second, the executive order about AIDS medicines and policy recognizing that health issues deserve special consideration in intellectual property disputes should be broadened. The U.S. should accept compulsory licensing and parallel importing as integral parts of the intellectual property system and crucial to delivering essential medicines in poor countries. The executive order should be broadened to cover all health-related technologies, not just those related to HIV/AIDS, and all parts of the world, not just Africa.

Third, the U.S. should announce its support for the South African effort to enable compulsory licensing and parallel imports, and urge the pharmaceutical companies that continue to block implementation of the South African Medicines Act through litigation to drop their lawsuit.

Fourth, the U.S. should stop seeking expansion of TRIPS ("TRIPS-plus") in international trade agreements like the FTAA. There should be no provisions to enhance patent protections in new trade agreements.

Fifth, the U.S. Ex-Im Bank should abandon its drug lending program. The U.S. should instead provide massively stepped-up aid for AIDS treatment and prevention, channeled through appropriate UN agencies.

Sixth, the U. …

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