Technology and inequality: can we decolonise the digital world?
By Padmashree Gehl Sampath
In this article, the author argues that techno-centric explanations of progress and industrialisation are deeply entrenched in a wider social context that encourages us to ignore the historical roots of current inequalities – which, in fact, are not amenable to a technological solution alone. Making the data economy work for all will require a serious reflection on how we want to frame this debate, and how to align ourselves to a common vision of social progress that technology could help to accomplish.
A New Trend in Trade Agreements: Ensuring Access to Cancer Drugs
By Maria Fabiana Jorge
A World Health Organization (WHO) report on cancer indicates that the cancer burden will increase at least by 60% over the next two decades, straining health systems and communities. Companies develop cancer drugs in part because payers are less resistant to paying high drug prices for these drugs. As Barbara Rimer, Dean of the University of North Carolina and Chair of the U.S. President’s Cancer Panel stated, “[m]ost cancer drugs launched in the United States between 2009 and 2014 were priced at more than $100,000 per patient for one year of treatment.” Many of the new cancer drugs are biologics. Such prices are clearly out of reach for most patients who will need them increasingly more to stay alive. While competition is critical to ensure lower drug prices, we have seen a number of strategies, including through trade agreements, to prevent competition and extend monopolies over these drugs and their very high drug prices. It is no accident that the exclusivity granted to biologic drugs has been one of the most conflictive provisions in recent trade agreements such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Nevertheless a new trend in trade agreements started in 2007 when U.S. Members of Congress pushed back against the interests of powerful economic groups seeking longer monopolies for drugs. These Members of the U.S. Congress prevailed then in restoring some balance in the trade agreements with Peru, Colombia and Panama and further consolidated this new trend in 2019 in the USMCA. Moreover, following the U.S. withdrawal from the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the negotiators of the remaining 11 countries also pushed back to ensure a better balance between innovation and access in the CPTPP. People around the world need to be aware of these precedents and ensure that they also work for access to medicines for their own citizens.
United States: An Obsolete Trade Practice Undermines Access to the Most Expensive Drugs at More Affordable Prices
By Maria Fabiana Jorge
Access to affordable drugs is a top policy priority for the United States with real bipartisan support but it increasingly seems to be an unreachable goal, in part, due to conflicting government policies. While the Administration’s Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs highlighted the importance of competition to ensure lower drug prices, U.S. trade policy in general, and the Special 301 Annual Review in particular, do exactly the opposite: broaden and lengthen the monopolies granted to pharmaceutical companies thus delaying or deterring the launch of generic and biosimilar drugs and with that, the chances of lowering drug prices. The pharmaceutical industry has changed a great deal in the past 30 years, among other things by developing complex biotechnology drugs that while critical for the treatment of illnesses such as cancer, are out of reach for many patients. While some parts of the government are trying to increase access to medicines through competition provided by generic and biosimilar drugs, their efforts are being undermined by a trade policy that was defined 30 years ago. It is time to adjust U.S. trade policy to the realities of 2020 and stop acting as if it was still 1989.
The Covid-19 Pandemic and Liability under Investment Treaties
By Muthucumaraswamy Sornarajah
COVID-19 can increase liability for countries under international investment treaties. Professor M. Sornarajah, Emeritus Professor at the National University of Singapore, discusses in this SouthViews the imminent challenges faced under such treaties by developing countries. The text isbased on his presentation at the South Centre webinar on “Responsible Investment for Development and Human Rights: Assessing Different Mechanisms to Face Possible Investor-State Disputes from COVID-19 Related Measures” held on 30th July 2020. The recording of the webinar is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXPswKuywvA
Trade Measures Adopted by Countries in Response to COVID-19
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many WTO members have adopted several measures affecting trade. Some are trade liberalizing; others are trade restrictive. South Centre has elaborated a worksheet that compiles these measures (updated till 16 April) based on available sources of information. The compilation does not intend to be exhaustive. However, it may help members to have information about the landscape of trade measures that may affect them.
Intellectual Property and Trade Measures to Address the Covid-19 Crisis by the South Centre
The South Centre views with concern the attempts by some governments and industry players to monopolize the availability of treatments, diagnostics, medicines, medical supplies and devices needed for their own nationalist agenda or to maximize profit, ahead of societal interest in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. The private enforcement of patents and government trade restrictions may pose a dire threat to the containment of this global public health emergency. Governments should act swiftly to put in place legislation and plans to ensure that patents and trade measures do not become barriers for access to those products.
The ISDS Reform Process: The missing development agenda
By Nicolás M. Perrone
The foreign direct investment (FDI) governance agenda is centred on the reform of international investment agreements (IIAs) and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The proliferation of IIAs and ISDS has contributed to narrowing the FDI agenda. A key policy question is whether this fragmented approach remains consistent with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Current FDI discussions point at the need for a holistic approach in this policy area, quite the opposite of a regime primarily aimed to protect foreign investors through treaty standards and international arbitration. The realisation of the SDGs depends on multi-stakeholder partnerships to combat poverty and provide clean water and energy to the world population. Crucially, these partnerships will require more cooperation and coordination than IIAs and ISDS can promote and nurture.
US-China trade deal: preliminary analysis of the text from WTO perspective
By Peter Lunenborg
The long-awaited ‘Phase 1’ trade deal between the United States and China, officially termed the ‘Economic and Trade Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the People’s Republic of China’, was signed on 15 January 2020. It will enter into force on Valentine’s Day, on Friday, 14 February 2020. This deal is a result of US exercise of political power and unilateral World Trade Organization (WTO)-inconsistent tariffs in order to extract trade concessions, an expression of the most pure protectionism that the WTO is supposed to prevent. Nevertheless, the WTO was unhelpful in addressing the US economic aggression against China. This failure to protect a Member from illegitimate unilateral measures is, perhaps, one of the most significant manifestations of the often-mentioned ‘crisis’ of the WTO, and actually is one of the subjects on which the proposed ‘reform’ of the organization should focus.
The Politics of Trade in the Era of Hyperglobalisation: A Southern African Perspective
About the Book:
Matters of international trade are increasingly widely recognised as major shapers of global politics. News bulletins are giving more and more coverage to matters like the so-called “trade wars” between the United States and China. These are, indeed, increasingly defining relations between the two largest economies in the world and could well underpin a multi-dimensional rivalry that could be a central feature of international relations for many years to come. Brexit is dominating and indeed re-shaping politics in the United Kingdom. By definition a rejection of a regional integration arrangement, Brexit has also revealed under-currents profoundly shaped by the outcome of a broader trade-driven process called “globalisation”. Just as regional integration is weakening in Europe, African countries have taken decisions that could lead to the most profound and ambitious step forward in African regional integration – the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This study seeks to present an analysis of the political economy of trade negotiations over the past quarter century on two main fronts: the multi-lateral and those pertaining to regional integration on the African continent.
Author: Rob Davies is former South African Minister of Trade and Industry.
Title: Setting Global Trade Rules on Electronic Commerce (E-Commerce) – Opportunities, Challenges, Perspectives and the impact on developing countries, specific to Small, vulnerable economies (SVEs), small island developing States (SIDs), and Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Regulating the Digital Economy: Dilemmas, Trade Offs and Potential Options
By Padmashree Gehl Sampath
The digital economy has been growing exponentially in recent years thanks to new technologies that are promoting a global transformation. Key technologies responsible for this transformation have become the subject of intense discussions under the umbrella term ‘fourth industrial revolution’. This paper offers a discussion on the differentiated impact of digital technologies on unemployment, capabilities building and technological catch-up for developing countries. It articulates some of the key issues and tradeoffs for developing countries that should be considered in policy discussions and deliberations.