Clinton urged to soften US stand on TRIPs in WTO

by Someshwar Singh

Geneva, 18 Nov. 99 -- More than a 100 non-governmental representatives from over 47 countries and several international organizations have urged President Clinton to ensure 'coherence' between the World Trade Organization (WTO), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In their joint letter, they say that WTO must recognize that other international laws and undertakings must be respected and that this recognition should be explicit.

The signatories said they are "horrified to learn that the United States delegation in Geneva has specifically rejected incorporating references to other relevant international agreements in the draft Ministerial Declaration being prepared for the Seattle meeting of the WT0."

"As we enter the 21st century, it is imperative that global coherence refer not only to coherence among the WTO, IMF and World Bank; equally if not more important for global food security, health and welfare is coherence among the WTO, other treaty bodies and the many United Nations agencies," the NGOs pointed out.

More specifically, they urged the U.S. delegation to acknowledge the rights of nations to control their biological resources; to guarantee the a priori rights of local communities to use, save and exchange seeds; and to provide essential medicines at affordable prices.

In their three-point specific demand, the NGO's urged the United States to accept the developing countries' proposals on TRIPs to:

1. amend Article 27.3 (b) to expand the list of exceptions to patentability to include living organisms and their parts as well as the list of essential drugs published by the World Health Organization;

2. operationalize Articles 7, 8 and 66.2 to ensure the transfer of technology on fair and mutually advantageous terms; and

3. establish transitional arrangements that enable developing countries especially the least developed, to comply without jeopardizing their right to development and without counteracting their obligations under other international agreements, particularly the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The NGOs pointed out that the Convention on Biological Diversity and the World Health Organization have debated and concluded that aspects of the WTO's TRIPs Agreement could have a significant impact on the ability of nations to comply with their mandates to conserve, sustainable use and equitably share the benefits of biological diversity and to ensure adequate health care to the peoples of the world.(SUNS4555)

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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