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Speech at the International Symposium on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health
Yi Xiaozhun
Vice Minister of Commerce

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning. It’s a great pleasure for me to participate in the International Symposium on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. First of all, on behalf of the Ministry of Commerce, I would like to welcome experts from the WTO, WHO, Canadian Government and Rwanda Government, officials from the Chinese ministries and local governments, representatives from chambers of commerce, trade associations, enterprises and NGOs, as well as all the scholars present. I would also like to thank the sponsors of this symposium for their efforts. The sponsors are China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, China WTO Tribune and China Pharmaceutical Industry Association.

The topic of this symposium, Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) and Public Health, is the only issue whose negotiation has been successfully completed since the WTO Doha Round was launched. While all the other issues in the Doha Round find it very hard to move on, this issue has been given priority to and successfully resolved, leading to the amendment of a core agreement of WTO for the first time, that is, the TRIPS Agreement. It shows that this issue is highly important to the life and health of human beings, especially people in the developing countries and the least developed countries. It is also the fruit of the committed efforts of the developing members.

As an old saying in China goes, “life is the most important thing on earth”. When HIV-AIDS, malaria, and TB are costing thousands of lives every year, and when SARS, bird flu and hand-foot-mouth disease have become common threats to the world, meeting the challenges of diseases and protecting people’s life and health has become the common aspiration and primary responsibility of every government.

The amendment of TRIPS makes it possible for every country to join hands in the fight against diseases. WTO members who have pharmaceutical production capacity are provided with a channel consistent with international regulations to assist the members that are mired in public health crises but lack the production capacity. They can help to solve the problem of pricey or insufficient drugs, and in this way quickly control and alleviate public health crises, and protect people’s fundamental right, the right to life and health. This is WTO’s unique contribution to the mankind. It is an attempt made by WTO members to appropriately deal with the relations between trade and health, and between public right and individual right. It reflects the equity and justice of the multilateral trade system.

The Chinese government has been actively involved in the negotiation of TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, and has firmly held that the TRIPS Agreement should strike a balance between intellectual property protection and public rights protection. We insist that the negotiation should fully consider the interests of the developing members, and that the fruit of the negotiation should fully reflect the objective of Doha Round – development. During the negotiation, MOFCOM, as the leading agency, had been deeply involved in the discussions together with the Ministry of Health and the State Intellectual Property Office. The Chinese delegation had made quite a number of proposals, greatly contributing to the progress of the negotiation. After the successful conclusion of the negotiation and the adoption of the Protocol Amending the TRIPS Agreement, China immediately launched the related domestic procedures and filed the Letter of Endorsement signed by President Hu Jintao with WTO on November 28, 2007, thus becoming one of the earliest members to accept the Protocol.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Making the best use of the new rights as mandated in the Protocol Amending the TRIPS Agreement is highly significant for the Chinese government, as we make every effort to better meet the mounting challenges in public health, “to accelerate social Development with the focus on improving people's livelihood”, and “to improve the capacity to prevent and control the outbreak of major diseases and the capacity to respond to public health emergencies”. At the same time, the new rights create more opportunities for the competent Chinese enterprises to help other developing countries to address public health problems.

Whether a good negotiation result could realize the original targets of the negotiation depends upon whether the result could be effectively implemented. The WTO members are all working on the implementation and realization of the new rights mandated by the amended TRIPS Agreement. In this regard, we are glad to see that Canada has become the first one to try out the new rights by completing the first case with Rwanda. Other members including India and Thailand are also making similar efforts.

The issue of TRIPS Agreement and public health is not only very complicated, but also involves many departments, including trade, health and patent, as well as pharmaceutical producers and international organizations. Coordination and cooperation between these various parties are needed, so are enhanced exchanges and discussions. Therefore, there are a number of key issues that call for further consideration. Firstly, how to make more contributions to the public health undertakings through fully utilizing these new rights, while prevent abuse of these rights, so that IPR protection and public health protection could proceed in a balanced way. Secondly, how to adjust domestic laws and regulations in accordance with the amended TRIPS Agreement through simplified procedures, without adding unreasonable administrative burden. Thirdly, how to build an information platform for suppliers and buyers, which could serve as a bridge between the members in urgent need of pharmaceuticals and the members with the capacity to produce pharmaceuticals under compulsory licenses, so that the new rights could be better exercised. These are all important issues to be addressed in practice.

We hope that this symposium could raise the awareness of related departments, pharmaceutical companies and specialists to this issue, push forward domestic research and practice, and help the people to better catch the spirit of the amended TRIPS Agreement in the hope that they could effectively use the new rights to serve for technology innovation, the public health undertakings and harmonious development of mankind.

In closing, I wish this symposium a great success.

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