World Health Assembly Adopts Resolution Tying Public Health To Trade Policy27/05/2006 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch and its Global Health Policy News are non-profit independent news services and depend on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.The World Health Assembly today adopted a resolution that urges member states to improve coordination at the national level between international trade and public health, requesting the World Health Organization (WHO) to help its member states to do this.The resolution calls for governments to promote a better dialogue on trade and health, and gives health ministries a place at the table with other government agencies involved in trade issues, establishing mechanisms to enable this. It also calls on countries to consider new laws and policies to address negative impacts on public health from trade policies, as well as potential opportunities.The agreement was reached on the final day of the 22-27 May assembly of the 192 member states of the World Health Organization. The agreement came after several developing countries agreed to rework or drop their proposed changes to the draft resolution in order to comply with concerns, including from Australia and the United States.India modified its proposal for more explicit reference to flexibilities for developing countries from international trade rules on intellectual property rights, Turkey dropped an effort to add text on transition countries, and Venezuela abandoned the prospect of creating an intergovernmental working group on trade and health.The new resolution – International Trade and Health (EB117 R5) – was unanimously agreed to at the January WHO Executive Board meeting, and it came as a surprise to many delegates that three countries suggested amendments to the draft resolution when the item was discussed on 26 May.India suggested adding a new paragraph urging member states, “to reflect all the flexibilities permitted under international trade agreements in national laws to address public health concerns.” It also suggested adding “multi-stakeholder” in to make the resolution read: “to promote multi-stakeholder dialogue” on trade and health.The United States said the issue of flexibilities in the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was already “more than adequately covered” in other resolutions, including the research and development resolution that also was adopted today (see related story). It proposed deleting the Indian paragraph.Australia also said that India’s proposal was already dealt with other places in the resolution. Moreover, it said that the TRIPS Agreement offered the member countries the opportunity “to take up flexibilities but does not require them to do so.”As a compromise, India proposed adding its point, in a somewhat watered-down version, to another paragraph referring to trade agreements, then reading: “using the flexibilities inherent in them.” The US suggested adding, “considering where appropriate” to be added before this. This was agreed and the resolution was adopted.The final version (not yet available) urges WHO member states “to adopt, where necessary, policies, laws and regulations that deal with issues identified in that dialogue and take advantage of the potential opportunities, and address the potential challenges that trade and trade agreements may have for health, considering where appropriate using the flexibilities inherent in them.”Venezuela agreed before the final day’s debate to drop its suggestion to set up an intergovernmental working group on the issue, sources said. On 27 May, the WHO secretariat distributed a new draft including the changes but in the meantime Venezuela had withdrawn its proposal. Therefore, there was no discussion of the Venezuelan proposal on 27 May.Turkey also agreed to drop a suggestion to add to a paragraph on the challenges and opportunities of trade, “also taking into account the special problems of countries through which health goods and services transit.” After some debate involving the United States seeking clarification, Turkey withdrew its proposal “for the sake of consensus,” it said.Two WHO sources told Intellectual Property Watch that the 26 May discussion of the draft resolution showed that there was “very good support across the board,” and many countries were already doing what the resolution suggested. The member countries are now looking to the WHO to help increase their capacity in this area, they said. The comments also showed that this is a new issue for the World Health Assembly but not for the individual countries making up the assembly, they said.The idea for the resolution came from Thailand at the May 2005 Executive Board meeting. Some members had argued that trade issues should remain primarily with the World Trade Organization, but acknowledged that governments want advice from the WHO as well, the WHO officials said.Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Related"World Health Assembly Adopts Resolution Tying Public Health To Trade Policy" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.