DG Trade´s short prescription for access to medicine

David Hammerstein and Helle Aagard  on behalf of TACD and Katrien Vervoort for Oxfam had a meeting on Tuesday September 12th with the Head of Unit on IPR for DG Trade of the European Commission Anders Jessen and 3 other member of DG Trade to discuss a number of issues dealing with access to medicine, IPR and trade.

One of the most surprising statements by the representative of the Commission was concerning their narrow interpretation of the Doha Declaration on the flexibilities of the TRIPS agreement.  When referring to the present UN Conference on non-communicable diseases he considered it “unacceptable” that developing countries had tried to attach their broad interpretation of Doha to the UN declaration on non-communicable diseases.  He said that if the G-77 countries wanted to “reopen the debate” at the WTO  on Doha the EU would give its opinion. According to Head of Unit Jessen the position of the EU is similar to the posture of the US on the scope of the flexibilities which is very much to restrict it to pandemics and epidemics while not including any non-communicable diseases such as cancer or heart disease. This tough approach by the EU flies in the face of most poorer countries of the world that cannot possibly pay the cost of many essential life-saving medicines.

Mr. Jessen also spoke of the EUs new Customs regulation that according to the EC will prevent future seizures at EU ports of generic medicines that are in transit to third countries. A number of concerns persist about this lack of clear definitions and sufficient safeguards in this legislation now being discussed by the European Parliament in as far as it still grants EU customs officials a great deal of discretion in order to seize goods suspected of violating trademarks or patents.

We also spoke about the EU IPR “watch list” that is similar to the US “301” list.  They accept our suggestion for a more open process of public participation and written submission before the publish of the “name and shame” list of countries for “weak” IPR enforcement.

The new EU IPR Enforcement Strategy was also discussed. DG Trade will bring out a “Communication” on which to base future legislation this autumn and it will include a chapter on development. At the same time DG development will publish a communication on Trade and Development.

Mr. Jessen, who said he closely followed the entries of the NGO “IP health list”,  insisted that we speak more with the Pharmaceutical industry to be better informed and that early next year he would work on a dialogue between Big Pharma and NGOs.  He confidently hoped that we could reconcile some of our positions with industry.

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