The dramatic collapse of the WTO negotiations on the export of generics can easily be explained. For a whole year a number of rich countries had only one objective : to renege on the Doha principle that public health has precedence over commercial interests.
The United States taking the position of the International Federation of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association, did its utmost to restrict the scope of the debate to a few diseases. Such a position is contrary to the Doha declaration and totally unjustifiable from a public health point of view. The European Union tried to impose a complex and burdensome system which would have been totally unworkable and thus would have limited the flow of generics.
Never did these countries respect the mandate that they had assigned to themselves : to ensure access as quickly as possible to generic copies of medicines in all the countries where the strict enforcement of intellectual property constitutes a major barrier to access to health care and treatments.
In the last few weeks, flouting the very first principle of negotiations, these countries resorted to all kinds of pressures and forms of intimidation possible to force developing countries to accept an agreement. The draft accord was totally inadequate to address the public health needs of developing countries, but would have made it possible for rich countries to forget this question for ever, and increased the power of pharmaceutical companies. The draft accord totally limited the scope of the Doha declaration and required a hegemonic respect of intellectual property rules everywhere in the world.
After endless meetings, as it was not possible for developing countries to accept an accord on drugs covering only three diseases, the United States remained intransigent and chose to block the text.
What is the end result of it all? In one year 15 million people have died of infectious diseases. It has been shown that the indiscriminate implementation of intellectual property rules prevalent in developed countries is inappropriate for these developing countries. Concerning healthcare, multinational corporations do not need the markets of these countries to recoup their research and development costs and make huge profits. Nevertheless, their monopoly profits continue to kill people.
The WTO negotiations were supposed to adapt the framework of international agreements to the real needs of the people living in developing countries concerning a fundamental sector : public health. They failed to do so.
The WTO has proved unable to guarantee fair negotiations which serve not only the interests of private companies, but also those of the member states of the organization. The TRIPS agreement has turned out to be unable to take any interests except commercial interests into account.
As rich countries have refused to think seriously about the public health issue and to get seriously involved in negotiations, they have shown that the system they have chosen to impose on the rest of the world is ineffective and dangerous.