Cablegate: Avian Flu: Inviting France to an International

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

131030Z Sep 05





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: On September 8, Ambassador met with Health
Minister to press the French to pursue, together with the
United States, a leadership role in the International
Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza. While the
Minister agreed that avian flu preparedness required
concerted international effort, spoke highly of the
U.S.-French health relationship, and had no reservations
about the core principles of the partnership, he did not
explicitly agree that France will participate. The Minister
posed a number of questions regarding U.S. pandemic
preparedness and Gilead and La Roche, patent-holder and
manufacturer and distributer, respectively, of 'Tamiflu.' End

2. (U) The Ambassador accompanied by Economic Affairs
Minister Counselor and Science Counselor met with Health
Minister Xavier Bertrand, members of his cabinet, including
diplomatic counselor Jean-Michel Linois, and the new
interministerial coordinator for avian flu, Professor Didier
Houssin, to seek French concurrence with the initiative to
create a partnership of countries to address avian influenza
preparedness. The Ambassador highlighted the longstanding
and excellent U.S.-French health relationship and the need
for countries to work together to combat what could become a
devastating pandemic. A partnership of like-minded nations,
he said, could plan together to prevent an outbreak from
becoming a worldwide catastrophe.

3. (SBU) The Minister replied that an influenza pandemic
constituted a "true risk." In the three months since he
became Minister, pandemic preparedness had consumed much of
his time. While he considered that France and the United
States saw the problem in the same way and desired to be
proactive on the subject, insufficient capacity existed
worldwide to respond to a major outbreak. According to the
Minister, "If an outbreak were to occur this year, we'd not
be ready." Dr. Houssin, the interministerial avian flu
coordinator, said that "a partnership could serve a useful
purpose," particularly since the World Health Organization
"could not do everything." However, the proposed
partnership's relationship to the World Health Organization
needed clarification. He added that at a recent 'Kuala
Lumpur meeting' there was a call for donor assistance to
prepare for a pandemic, especially in regard to building
capacity for reacting to an outbreak. The Ambassador
responded that a goal of the proposed partnership was to
develop a strategy so that any outbreak did not get
out-of-hand in the first place. The partnership could serve
to provide overarching strategic guidance. He added that the
partnership's ideas were not yet set in concrete; different
countries can bring their best ideas to the group and the
U.S. is very open to French thinking. The U.S. side quoted
from the IPAPI core principles reinforcing this point.

4. (SBU) The Minister asked about the situation in the U.S,
wanting to know in particular on what basis the Centers for
Disease Control had concluded that a human-to-human H5N1
viral outbreak would occur in the next 12 to 24 months. He
said that many felt that it was not a question of "if (there
were to be an outbreak) but when." He said that French
experts thought it highly likely that Southeast Asia would be
where the outbreak would occur. He wondered what the United
States might do to help Southeast Asians whose flocks of
domestic birds might be destroyed, saying that there is
discussion on this topic at the EU level. The Minister also
asked about the Gilead - La Roche relationship and expressed
personal concern that only one company manufactured the
medicine Tamiflu. To all these questions, the U.S. side
argued that a partnership of aware and concerned nations
could most effectively coordinate resources and responses.
The Minister concluded the meeting underscoring the need to
prepare against a pandemic, noting that no one country can
possibly do it alone.


5. (SBU) The Health Minister avoided providing either an
affirmative or negative response to whether France would
subscribe to the proposed avian flu partnership. We are not
sure why. (Foreign Ministry and Health officials had told
ESTH counselor in previous meetings that the French
government thought the core principles of the IPAPI were
fine, posing no objections.) It could be that the French
themselves plan to roll out an initiative on avian flu at
UNGA and consequently felt it premature to respond to the
IPAPI initiative now. Or, less conspiratorially, they may
simply want greater detail and reassurances regarding how the
partnership will work. For example, in a separate meeting
between ESTH counselor and the new interministerial delegate
for avian flu coordination in France, the latter repeatedly
asked why IPAPI was not on the agenda for the upcoming
meeting in Mexico of the Global Health Security Action Group
(GHSAG). Argumentation that the partnership was a completely
different way to tackle pandemic preparedness and that the
concept for the partnership was brand new apparently fell on
deaf ears.) The Embassy would be pleased to provide Minister
Bertrand a short paper on U.S. preparedness measures to date
with information regarding Tamiflu stockpiling.

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