Keep special interests off Doha agenda
IPN Opinion article
Sir, As ministers debate the minutiae of the Doha declaration, they should not lose sight of the key objective of a new round, which must be to free up trade in agriculture, textiles and other products that were given special exemptions in the Uruguay round.
The European Union is opposing true free trade outside its borders, just as it opposes true free trade within them. It is pushing for an unnecessary expansion of the environmental exceptions. By so doing it buys off France's farmers and Germany's Greens. But it does so at the expense of everyone else.
Meanwhile, Brazil and India are pushing for an expansion of the compulsory licensing provisions in trade related intellectual property rights. The merits of such an expansion are debatable; certainly it would benefit the generics producers in India and Brazil, but at the expense of companies developing new pharmaceuticals - including treatments for TB, malaria and Aids - and without any benefit to the poorest of the world, who cannot afford even cheap copies of off-patent medicines. Moreover, the cost in terms of distracting attention from the key issues could be huge. That is presumably why the EU is playing the middleman. At present the declaration on intellectual property and public health is the biggest stumbling block to an agreement in Doha.
Developing countries must focus their energies on what really matters to them: getting a decent agreement on reducing subsidies to agriculture in Europe, the US and Japan. For that, they need the support of the US. If that means abstaining from supporting Brazil and India on the intellectual property and public health declaration, then that is what they should do.