Monday, November 17, 2008

So Madam, Exactly How Big Is Pakistan?

The World Health Organization recently sent a team of experts to Pakistan to hold a workshop on the relationship between Patents and Public Health. The central thesis of the WHO workshops was that the governments of developing countries have to give priority to public health and ensure that they don't unwittingly sign implement Intellectual Property measures that will restrict public health.

The workshop is part of a global campaign by the WHO to equip developing countries with skills needed to combat what are known as "TRIPS-Plus" Intellectual Property measures. 1) (2) (3)

The three speakers, a Professor from Argentina who is a consultant for various UN bodies, the Director of WHO on I.P. Affairs (a Brazilian now based in Geneva), and the Head of Drug Registration in Thailand, are experts in the field. They gave comprehensive presentations over the course of 3 days and used countries in Latin America and Asia, including their own countries, as examples and further highlighted that several INGOs and UN bodies, also oppose TRIPS Plus measures.

During a tea break on the third day, a fellow participant, Dr. KM, and I caught up with the head of the Pakistani Patent Office and started having a chat with her about the workshop. Both Dr. KM and I represent the Pakistani generic pharmaceutical industry and were in high spirits as the speakers support a position that we've been advocating for years.

We asked the Controller of Patents if she thought the workshop would have an impact; in particular, we asked her if Pakistan would follow the example set by other developing countries and develop the oppressive I.P. measures that are being proposed? The Controller’s remark left us speechless:

“Dekhain, yay speaker tho chotay mulkon say hain, Pakistan aik bara mulk hai aur in logon kay example yahan apply karna mushkil hoga.”

What?

Since when did Pakistan become bigger than Brazil, or more economically powerful than Argentina or Thailand? I am convinced that the Controller wasn’t listening to a word what these guys were saying because one of the key examples they used was of India, a country that has time and again given priority to Public Health over suspect I.P. legislation that favours a handful of companies based in the U.S. and Western Europe, and no one can argue that India is bigger than Pakistan.

Well I guess the Controller of Patents can. So much for these gentlemen travelling from around the world trying to make some sense of a thorny issue, they might as well have spent their time having some delicious steaks, drinking sangria at a festival filled with dancing transsexuals, for all the good their workshop did.

Links:

(1)
"TRIPS = Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights" ainternational treaty that is part of the WTO regime. TRIPS plus relates to measures that are beyond the binding provisions of the TRIPS Agreement.

(2)
Oxfam report on TRIPS Plus measures in Jordan.

(3) TRIPS Plus measures are increasingly being pushed down the throats of developing countries, like Pakistan, by the U.S. and E.U. as requirements for Free Trade Agreements and Aid Packages. There are however dissenting voices from within the U.S. Congress who believe that TRIPS measures ought to be removed from FTAs as they jeopardize Public Health; click here for the statement by Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Henry Waxman.

1 comment:

Ahmer Naqvi said...

Hi AKS,

I'm a reporter doing a story on illegal medicines in pakistan. if you are interested in this kind of stuff, please let me know. You can email me at ahmer.naqvi@dawnnews.tv

cheers