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2001-11-12

At the WTO Meeting in Qatar Poor Countries Demand That the US Put Human Rights Over Thepatent Rights of Drug Companies, As Thousands Protest Around the World

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Today is the fourth day of the five-day meetings of the World Trade Organization, which are being held in the tinyisland Gulf state Qatar. The United States and Switzerland edged closer to agreement with developing countriesdemanding more leeway to override drug patents for health emergencies, one of the issues threatening to block newglobal trade talks.

The dispute has dominated the WTO conference, where ministers are hoping to launch a new round of negotiations tolower barriers to global commerce. Pressure also is building to reach a compromise on other hot issues, such asantidumping rules and agricultural subsidies.

Rich countries hope to come away from the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting tomorrow with an agreement onlaunching new trade talks, which they argue would give the faltering world economy a much-needed confidence boost.Developing countries are demanding more market access for their textiles and agriculture products and recognitionthat some past pledges of help have yet to be fulfilled.

Brazil and India, which have large generic drug industries, are leading the push for a declaration that patent rightswon’t block poor countries from responding to AIDS and other health crises. The United States and Switzerland areloathe to alter the WTO’s intellectual property agreement, worried about undermining their own pharmaceuticalindustries. Poor countries that don’t have manufacturing capability can override patents and import lifesaving drugs,but the exporting country could face trade sanctions. Doha, Qatar must have seemed like an ideal location when theWorld Trade Organization chose it a year ago to host this week’s crucial gathering of trade ministers. At the time,the main security concern on the minds of WTO officials was the threat of a repeat of the big anti-globalizationprotests.

While only around 50 leaders of the anti-globalization movement were granted permission to attend the meetings inQatar, anti-globalization demonstrators gathered in hundreds of cities and almost 40 countries this weekend toprotest against the ministerial meetings of the WTO. In New York, activists held a strategy summit over the weekendabout how to organize against globalization and against the war. On Friday, several hundred activists marched throughthe cold streets of midtown Manhattan, visiting the offices of several corporations on a "corporate tour of shame."

Guest:

  • Thatcher Collins, Free Speech Radio News correspondent in Qatar.
  • David Solnit, Action for Local Global Justice.
  • Henry Clark, West County Toxics Coalition.
  • Emily Reilly, WTO protest organizer in Seattle.

Tape:

  • Vandana Shiva, director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy inIndia, in Qatar.
  • Jose Bove, French farmer and unionist, convicted for ransacking a McDonald’s fast food outlet in France,and destroying genetically modified maize, in Qatar.
  • Asia Russell, ACT UP Philadelphia, in Qatar.

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