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Your Medicine And The WTO

For immediate release: 14 November 2002

Your medicine and the WTO

"Claims that the current invitation-only meeting of WTO ministers in Sydney is focused on helping poor countries access life saving medicines is a cynical deception," says Leigh Cookson on behalf of the Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa (ARENA) and GATT Watchdog.

"The problem of access to affordable medicines for HIV-AIDS and other deadly diseases was created by the WTO in the first place. The TRIPS agreement on intellectual property prevents poorer countries from producing and importing affordable generic drugs," she points out.

"The rich countries, notably the European Union and the US, are determined to protect their pharmaceutical companies. They were forced to back down partially at the Doha ministerial meeting last year. But that only produced an ‘interpretation’ of the TRIPS agreement that provided some relief for some poorer countries."

Cookson says the issue "is not about creating more exceptions or interpretations of TRIPS. It is about putting people’s right to life ahead of the monopoly interests of the mega-drug companies who control patented medicines, and making it clear that health is not and should not be controlled by trade rules.

"The PR spin being given to the TRIPS issue is an attempt to misrepresent this meeting as promoting the concerns of poorer countries. Access to medicine is one of the few negotiating tools those countries can use to hold back the demands of richer countries for even more radical free trade rules. At the same time, any concessions to them on health will come at a price."

"Meanwhile," says Leigh Cookson, "analysis of the rest of the WTO agenda is conveniently kept off the front page."

Ends: Text words 270

Contact: Leigh Cookson at 025 662 7174

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