Impact of Relevant WTO Agreements on Public Health and Accessibility to Medicines
2004 Vol.20 NO.10
After many years of hard work, Taiwan finally became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, in coordination with the relevant regulations of the WTO, a series of policy and regulatory modifications will eventually be issued. Based on the experiences of other countries, since public health involves a large and complex range of affairs, the health-related issues of the various agreements of the WTO have always been a major concern of the member states and relevant organizations. Although after many negotiations, and acting upon the professional recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), some public health issues that are associated with the WTO agreements have been resolved, the disputes around the issues of patent rights protection remain to be resolved. To find a point of balance on both ends, one of public interests and one of private profits has always been the goal of the WTO. Developed countries, developing countries, and less developed countries have different standpoints, how to reach a resolution that is legal and agreeable to all parties concerned is also the goal of all member states of the WTO. After years of consultation and negotiation, by interpreting the relevant WTO agreements with flexibility, and through mandatory authorization, parallel importation and negotiations, the negative impact of the Agreement of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Right (TRIPS) has been resolved for the time being. Thus far, however, no absolute agreement has been reached among member states. Though Taiwan’s development in public health has received international recognition, the WTO agreements should have little impact on Taiwan, and the use of methods such as mandatory authorization to resolve public health crises are not required. However, at a time of rapid change, countries are no longer separated by boundaries, and along with increasingly frequent international trade and transportation, the problems and challenges facing Taiwan are more than ever. We, therefore, must be in close contact with new information, and learn from the experiences of others at the same time, in order to face the unknown challenges of the future.