The Doha Round Essay

1060 words - 5 pages

The Doha round’s trade negotiations over intellectual property have been long and arduous. After more than a decade there is still no agreement over the extent of patent protection that should be afforded to pharmaceuticals. The shadow of the future adds additional complications, as the involved parties have no reason to settle now, when they can wait and hope for more favorable terms in the future. Despite this looming threat, the future holds promise for a drug access settlement. As technology improves and trade agreements become more ubiquitous, it will create a larger zone of agreement between the parties, making it easier to settle the dispute.
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These states have highly developed generic drug-manufacturing capabilities, but lack the capital for the research and development of new drugs. The third set of actors included the poor, undeveloped states facing public health crises, like the HIV/AIDS epidemics. These countries, mostly in Africa and the Caribbean lacked the capacity and resources to manufacture or develop these drugs, and also the capacity to pay for anything but generic drugs. Higher income states, like Thailand, could develop the facilities to manufacture generic drugs, if allowed by Doha, but could also afford to pay for non-generics. The last group of actors, including the European Union and Japan, were high income and lacked pharmaceutical companies. Their interest in the debate was limited to their desire to finalize Doha negotiations.
The future has the potential to make things more difficult. As the WTO requires unanimous consent, there is no winning coalition that could be formed from a partial group of actors. Thee need for everyone to agree makes negotiations more difficult and protracted. Each side prefers to wait for further negotiations in order to not “limit their options for maneuver in the future” (Elms 121).
Any future change in the balance of power would make a deal stuck now less appealing for the parties in the future, so they are willing to wait. The willingness to wait can be explained by the low discount factor on all sides. Currently, the intellectual property protection is strong, as the developed, pharmaceutical manufacturing states want. They have no reason to believe that future agreements would provide the same twenty-year protection as the TRIPS agreement did. States with the capacity to produce generics are hesitant to push for reform as they currently violate the patent protection for drugs. Despite the trade violations, no case has ever been brought to the WTO, and so there is no means of enforcement. Poor countries suffering from public health crises would like to see the case settled, as they refrain from importing generics in fear of retaliation. The higher income states, like Thailand, could develop their own manufacturing facilities, import generics from abroad, or pay slightly discounted western prices. Because of their many options, they are willing to wait for a more favorable deal to their interests. The advanced industrialized nations with no state in the...

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