NZ Offered The Way Through TRIPS Stand-Off

Published: Wed 14 Nov 2001 09:44 AM
New Zealand Offered The Way Through TRIPS Stand-Off
The break-through deal on Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) and public health was a brilliant achievement by New Zealand officials, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.
There had been a stand-off between developing nations which are suffering the scourge of HIV-AIDS and need cheap drugs to treat their people and developed countries whose drug companies developed the drugs and own the patents on them.
At the beginning of the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting at Doha, Qatar, it was anticipated that TRIPS was the area where agreement on launching a new round of world trade negotiations would break down.
Mr Sutton offered the New Zealand delegation's services to find a solution during a speech to all delegations at the meeting. That offer was well-received by other delegates, who had been extremely worried about the stand-off on TRIPS.
"Within minutes of saying that, I was tapped on the shoulder by a representative of the Organisation for African Unity, and we were asked by the Mexican facilitator of the working group of that topic to help build a bridge between the developed and developing nations.
"Two of our specialist negotiators worked incredibly hard over the next couple of days to bring about agreement between two parties which had been diametrically opposed.
"News of the break-through was greeted with enthusiastic applause by a full hall of delegates.
"The solution that the New Zealand delegation has helped broker is not only a good one for developing nations, who desperately need help, but a good one for the whole WTO, because it may be the icebreaker that enables the round to go ahead."
Under WTO rules, all members must accept all the proposed text, or a new round of international trade negotiations cannot be launched.
Mr Sutton said he was hopeful that other outstanding areas in the draft text, which would form the basis of proposed world trade negotiations, could also be resolved in a way that would be acceptable to all members, so that a round could be launched.
"So much work has gone into this. The world really needs this round, so that countries can expand their trade, enhance their links with each other, and improve the welfare of all citizens. Developing nations have made it clear during speeches at WTO sessions that they need market access in rich markets for their products in order to become more prosperous."
He said it would be a disaster if agreement on a new round could not be reached.
Countries have till 12.30am November 14 (10.30am NZ time) to reach agreement.

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