US Congressional Delegation In Geneva Focuses On Trade, Avian Flu 30/11/2005 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate. Members of the United States House of Representatives visited Geneva this week to learn more about ongoing trade negotiations and policy related to the possible avian influenza pandemic. The bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats met on 28 November with World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy as well as with officials at the World Health Organisation. They were then expected to travel to meet with European Union officials in Brussels, and to London to participate in the 60th Trans-Atlantic Legislators’ Dialogue, which is the official US-EU interparliamentary exchange. The congressional delegation includes: Republicans Darrell Issa of California, Cliff Stearns of Florida, and Candace Miller of Michigan. Democrats on the trip included Reps. Gary Ackerman of New York, Eliot Engel of New York, and Silvestre Reyes of Texas. Several of the members serve on the House International Relations Committee. Stearns chairs a subcommittee on commerce, trade and consumer protection. A reception was held in the representatives’ honor at the US mission on 28 November. Among those attending were Sha Zukang, the Chinese ambassador to Geneva, and Rita Hayes, deputy director responsible for copyrights and related rights at the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Issa said in an interview that his message is to help developing countries obtain medicines affordably, but that developed country citizens should pay full price in order to offset the discount for poorer nations. “I recognise the need for a consistent standard for first world nations who have the ability to pay the full market price for pharmaceuticals,” he said. Issa criticised Canada for offering lower priced drugs, which he said raises questions among Americans as to why their drugs are more expensive. There is a need to codify in international trade rules that richer countries pay full price, a message he delivered to the WTO, he said. On obtaining sufficient supplies of medicines to counter an avian flu pandemic in the United States (where supplies are said to currently cover only one percent of the population), Issa said he is not concerned. “We have assurances” from the producers, that they “will never allow a patent to stand in the way of delivery of medicines.” He said he is more concerned about lawyers interfering, for instance, in trying to hold the pharmaceutical companies liable for failing to prevent diseases that occur. On trade, Issa said it is not necessary to conclude current trade-liberalisation negotiations at the WTO before the 2007 expiration of US “trade-promotion authority” which limits Congress to a yes-or-no vote on free trade deals negotiated by the president. Issa said that any congressional members considering a run for the US presidency in 2008, such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, and New York Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, likely would feel compelled to vote in favour of the trade-negotiating authority. “If you go through the list of presidential candidates, you get a majority of the Senate,” Issa joked, referring to the high number of potential candidates in the Senate. But ultimately, he said, trade-negotiating authority is not needed for WTO members to conclude the current round of negotiations. Nevertheless, the faith in this view by other member governments remains to be seen. "US Congressional Delegation In Geneva Focuses On Trade, Avian Flu" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.