Open Letter to the Chair of the Council on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS): Alfredo Suescum, Ambassador of Panama to the World Trade Organisation

Dear Ambassador Suescum,

We call on the members of the World Trade Organisation to prioritise the special needs of developing countries and agree to extend their exemption from the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement (TRIPS) at their meeting on 11th-12th June 2013.

We recognise the important role that IP can play in a country’s development, but ask that the world’s poorest countries be permitted to comply with the elements of TRIPS at a pace that is appropriate to their own specific development.

While there has been much progress in improving global health under the framework of the Millennium Development Goals, there is still a long way to go:

  • Almost a third of those living with HIV live in Least Developed Countries
  • Even with the TRIPS exemption, half of those eligible for antiretroviral treatment are not receiving it
  • 95% of TB cases occur in developing countries
  • 1.4 million people died from TB in 2011 and a further 8.7 million were diagnosed
  • A third of TB sufferers have no access to diagnosis and treatment

It is essential that the poorest countries continue to receive preferential access to life-saving medicines. A failure to renew this exemption will put the lives of many already vulnerable people at unnecessary further risk and is essential if we are to achieve many of the health-related Millennium Development Goals.

The international community must put renewed emphasis on creating an enabling environment in preparation for the post-2015 development agenda – granting a further extension for LDC compliance to TRIPS is a vital part of this process that will facilitate developing countries to lift themselves out of poverty.

The current system provides access to crucial treatment for devastating diseases to those who need them most. We ask you to recognise the inextricable links between trade, public health and poverty eradication by granting a further exemption to LDCs from the TRIPS agreement.

Yours sincerely,

Hugh Bayley MP

Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP

Sir Peter Bottomley MP

Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell MP

Katy Clark MP

Lord Crisp

Baroness Finlay

Jim Fitzpatrick MP

Paul Flynn MP

Andrew George MP

Stephen Gilbert MP

Pat Glass MP

Rt Hon Peter Hain MP

Lord Hastings

Meg Hillier MP

Julian Huppert MP

Lord Jay

Baroness Jolly

Lord Judd

Baroness Kinnock

Pauline Latham OBE MP

Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP

Ann McKechin MP

Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP

Grahame Morris MP

Stephen Mosley MP

Pamela Nash MP

Lord Patel

Baroness Prashar

Lord Sheikh

Gareth Thomas MP

Robin Walker MP



MPs, leading four All Party Groups, have written an open letter to the WTO TRIPS Council urging them to renew the right of poor countries to access low cost drugs. The letter has been signed by 32 parliamentarians from all parties and both houses. In practice an exemption from TRIPS means that poor countries can access life-saving medicines at costs they can afford. But this exemption expires in July this year, and a proposal submitted by LDCs for a further 10 year extension will be debated in Geneva on the 11th-12th June. MPs are asking that the WTO prioritise the needs of developing countries and agree to extend their exemption to TRIPS.

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