APEC urges World Trade Organization members to ratify treaty amendment granting special licenses for export of medicines

MANILA, Oct. 28 (PNA) — The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) has urged all World Trade Organization (WTO) members to ratify the Protocol Amending the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, considering the importance of facilitating access to medicines.

The call was made by APEC ministers responsible for trade in their Statement on Supporting the Multilateral Trading System issued at the conclusion of their 21st meeting held in Boracay in celebration of the WTO’s 20th anniversary last May.

The Protocol Amending the TRIPS Agreement is the first multilateral treaty amendment agreed by WTO members since the WTO Agreement came into force in 1995. It serves to permanently incorporate into the TRIPS Agreement additional flexibilities to grant special compulsory licenses for the export of medicines, referred to as the “Paragraph 6 System”.

First established by a decision taken by members in 2003, Paragraph 6 System is a “waiver” and pending amendment allowing generic medicines to be made under “compulsory licenses” exclusively for export to countries that cannot produce the medicines themselves.

The system deals with a problem identified in Paragraph 6 of the 2001 Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health by removing a limit in the TRIPS Agreement’s Article 31(f) on the amount nations can export under a compulsory license to countries needing the medicines.

According to the WTO Agreement, a member formally accepts the Protocol by depositing what is referred to as an “instrument of acceptance” for the Protocol with the Director General of the WTO.

As stipulated in the Protocol, it shall enter into force in accordance with Article X:3 of the WTO Agreement, namely, the Protocol shall take effect upon acceptance by two-thirds of the members for members that have accepted the Protocol; thereafter, the Protocol shall take effect for each other member upon acceptance by it.

In their Statement on Supporting the Multilateral Trading System, the APEC trade ministers noted that since the WTO’s establishment in 1995, the Asia Pacific has been one of the fastest-growing trading regions, benefiting significantly from the stability and predictability of the multilateral trading system.

The ministers reaffirmed the “value, centrality and primacy of the multilateral trading system under the auspices of the WTO in promoting trade expansion, economic growth, job creation and sustainable development, as well as in supporting developing economies to integrate into the global trading system”.

“We will continue to work closely together to strengthen the rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system as embodied in the WTO,” they said.

They further pointed out that WTO has significantly contributed to the fight against protectionism since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis.

“We note that, while global economic growth continues, there is potential for stronger growth through more robust international trade,” the APEC trade ministers declared. (PNA)