Issue brief |

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? - Issues for the 5th WTO Ministerial Conference (Cancún 2003)

In 2001 at the Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, World Trade Organization (WTO) Members adopted the groundbreaking “Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health,” which unequivocally recognised the primacy of public health over commercial interests. The Declaration confirmed some of the key flexibilities in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and obligated countries to interpret the treaty in a manner that would protect public health and promote access to medicines for all. The core of the Declaration states:

“4. We agree that the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent Members from taking measures to protect public health. Accordingly, while reiterating our commitment to the TRIPS Agreement, we affirm that the Agreement can and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of WTO Members' right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all.”

On the eve of the next Ministerial in Cancún, what has been achieved? In this document, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) assesses both the major setbacks and accomplishments of the past two years, and outlines the key issues to be addressed at Cancún.

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