27th May 2019

MEPs attack US over generic medicines

The European Parliament yesterday repeated its condemnation of US policy on generic medicines and called on the US and other Western countries to show greater flexibility on agricultural reform in the forthcoming WTO talks in Cancun, Mexico.

Last December, the US was the only country of the 144 states in the WTO to block a deal that would allow developing countries to import generic medicine without paying prohibitive intellectual property rights.

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MEPs protested at the time and yesterday restated their opposition to this policy, rejecting "the pressure recently exerted by the United States on developing countries to give up their right to import generic medicine".

MEPs added that an "urgent solution" to this problem needs to be found before the next round of WTO talks, to be held on 10 - 14 September. Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy stressed that, if no compromise is found, there would be a "major problem" at Cancun.

This row is important because it affects millions of AIDs sufferers in sub-Saharan Africa. Countries will unable to import the necessary medicine until a deal is reached. US authorities, on the other hand, are under enormous pressure from the powerful American pharmaceutical lobby to maintain the status quo.

And now to farming

With the EU's recent accord on the Common Agricultural Policy still fresh in MEPs minds, the European Parliament called on the US and the Cairns group of countries, which includes Australia, New Zealand and Canada, to follow their lead in reforming agricultural policy.

According to the euro-parliamentarians, "industrialised countries must make substantial gestures to developing countries in terms of eliminating all subsidies to the export of agricultural products".

But the EU may have its own problems at Cancun on agricultural reform. The French farmers' confederation sees the CAP deal as a betrayal of their interests and plans to cause trouble.

The Confederation recently called on French farmers to "mobilise before and during the WTO negotiations", in the hope of "submitting the WTO to the fundamental rights of the people".

The French government is already suffering strikes over pension reform and will wish to avoid disturbances from the countryside if possible.


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