Developing a Methodology to Facilitate Trade-Related Policy Coherence for Sustainable Access to Essential Medicines

ICTSD Consultation
Geneva, 07 November 2006

Description |Agenda| Participants| Documents


Access to medicines that could cure diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis is contingent on a set of parallel trade related policies that are not always aligned. Some of these include applied tariffs and non-tariff barriers to drugs, the level of flexibility in intellectual property rules, competition from generics whether locally produced or imported, provision of services through any of the GATS 'modes,' existence of certain regulatory frameworks such as competition, government procurement, price controls and tax policies. Such policies can have a strong impact on access to medicines at the global level, especially in developing countries where resources are limited.

Trade policy coherence entails the systemic promotion of policy actions across government agencies in a manner that is mutually beneficial. Policy coherence in the field of trade and health remains a fundamental challenge at the international and national level. It has been identified as one of the principle objectives under the Millennium Development Goals for raising international health-related welfare. The need to address this discrepancy has also been emphasized during the World Health Assembly of 2006, where Member states put forward two resolutions that touched upon the relationship between trade and health. The Member States also requested the Director General of the World Health Organization … to build the capacity to understand the implications of international trade and trade agreements for health; and … to continue collaborating with the competent international organizations in order to support policy coherence between trade and health sectors….

To help facilitate the creation of an enabling framework for sustainable access to essential medicines in developing countries, ICTSD is currently engaged in a project aimed at enhancing trade-related policy coherence. In this pursuit, it seeks to engage in applied policy, legal and economic research and informal multi-stakeholder dialogues at the national level.

With this backdrop, ICTSD organized the consultation with a view to developing a methodology to assess and review all trade-related national polices that affect access to medicines in selected developing countries. The consultation was limited to a small group of experts. Dr. Kamal SAGGI, a leading expert from the Department of Economics, Southern Methodist University of the United States, presented his views on the preparation of the methodology, which included responding to the following questions:

  • To what extent are health concerns taken into account in the design of trade- related policies?
  • Which trade-related policies affect access to medicines and what is the nature of their impact?
  • To what extent does the complementariness of trade-related policies affect access to medicines?
  • How can the current situation be improved at the national level?

© ICTSD 2004 - Last Update: 05-Oct-2009