Climate change and trade: what policies for environmental goods and services?
Carlos Correa, Executive Director, South Centre
International conference on “Climate Change and Sustainable Development”
26-27 March 2022, Cairo, Egypt
While the importance of protecting the environment in the context of trade policies is firmly recognized, a key question is the extent to which trade disciplines aimed at protecting the environment can reach their intended or declared objectives and affect the trade interests and economic growth prospects of developing countries. Developing countries are also among the most affected by climate change and, hence, they have a major interest in international action to address it. However, the intensification of environmental threats faced by developing countries is not of their making, and advancing an agenda -with no evidence that it would lead to reduced emissions- is likely to just disadvantage the developing world which has the least responsibility historically for today’s climate-related damages. Given this history, as well as the tight external constraints imposed on their efforts to mobilize resources, developing countries cannot be expected to either successfully mitigate climate change or adapt to climate change, without significant financial and technological support. The South Centre has been assessing the policy implications that the initiatives on trade and environmental sustainability will have for the Global South.
In October of 2020, when India and South Africa proposed a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement, it was meant to increase local manufacturing capacity in these countries. The waiver was proposed as a tool to kick-start prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19. While there is an imminent need to meet a growing supply-demand gap for all medical products, COVID-19 related products are urgently required in poorer nations to contain the pandemic. The waiver has an additional role to play in the larger trade schema. In enabling vaccination of populations across the globe, the waiver would be critical to normalize global trade. The paper below captures the benefits of the waiver and compares it with the existing flexibilities under the trade regime, being compulsory licensing.
The Ocean Economy: trends, impacts and opportunities for a post COVID-19 Blue Recovery in developing countries
by David Vivas Eugui, Diana Barrowclough and Claudia Contreras
This paper discusses preliminary and still quite unknown trends on trade, finance, and technology of the ocean economy, outlines key impacts and measures taken to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and raises awareness about the potential of the ocean economy to contribute to a sustainable and resilient recovery. Based on these findings, the paper argues that sustainability and resilience considerations should be more highly prioritized in ocean-based value chains in a post COVID-19 recovery. To support this, the paper highlights the importance of securing sufficient and reliable long-term investment and the creation of capacities to develop new and adapt existing service innovations. It calls for a global trade, investment and innovationBlue Deal as sister to the Green New Deal already gaining support around the world, particularly for developing countries.
Contribution of the South Centre to the Report of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution A/75/L.97 dated 9 June 2021 on the “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”
This input by the South Centre is prepared in response to the UN Secretary-General’s request as a contribution to the report of the Secretary-General as per resolution A/75/L.97, with respect to the imposition of unilateral economic, financial and trade measures against Cuba, in violation of basic principles of the UN Charter.
The Proposed Pandemic Treaty and the Challenge of the South for a Robust Diplomacy
By Obijiofor Aginam
The motivation for a pandemic treaty is infallible because of the ‘globalization of public health’ in a rapidly evolving interdependence of nations, societies, and peoples. Notwithstanding the lofty purposes of the proposed pandemic treaty as a tool for effective cooperation by member-states of the WHO to address emerging and re-emerging disease pandemics in an inter-dependent world, the proposal nonetheless raises some structural and procedural conundrums for the Global South. The negotiation of a pandemic treaty should, as a matter of necessity, take into account the asymmetries of World Health Organization member-states and the interests of the Global South.
Access to Medical Equipment in a Pandemic Situation: Importance of Localized Supply Chains and 3D Printing
By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD
The response to the COVID-19 crisis highlighted the weaknesses of the free trade system and failures of the traditional supply chains. Public health preparedness for future pandemics demands nation-states to increase their local production of medical supplies in order to reduce their dependence on third countries. Globally connected local production, enabled by digital fabrication tools, is arguably the best policy response to collaboratively address supply-chain vulnerabilities. 3D printing technology, which is the most prominent manifestation of digital fabrication ecosystems, can play a key role in enhancing the local production capacity in a time- and cost-efficient manner. This paper calls for an increased focus on local production and proposes a more systematic use of 3D printing capabilities to address shortages of critical medical equipment in a health emergency.
The Right to Development and its Role in International Economic Law
By Olasupo Owoeye
This paper provides a brief discussion on the right to development and examines some of the criticisms often raised against its significance as a cognizable human right. The paper argues that the principles encapsulated in the right to development represent the foundational principles of the international legal order. The right to development is therefore both a human right and an economic right. Thus, the principles it embodies are not only incorporated into the International Bill of Human Rights, they are also well reflected in World Trade Organization agreements and the field of international economic law. The paper argues that the right to development can play an important role in the interpretation and enforcement of rights under international economic law.
Guaranteeing Access to Medicines: Reforming Trade and Investment Treaties in the COVID-19 Era
Eight months into COVID-19, what is the status of the international investment regime and access to essential medicines? The GDP Center’s Working Group on Trade and Access to Medicines will host a panel discussion on trade, the investment regime, and access to essential medicines. The event is co-sponsored by the South Centre, the intergovernmental organization of developing nations based in Switzerland.
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.
WTO reform and the crisis of multilateralism – A Developing Country Perspective
About the Book:
The WTO has not been able to recover since the collapse of the Doha Round in July 2008. Several ministerial conferences including the Buenos Aires meeting in December 2017 failed to reach agreement. The US Trump Administration launched a campaign to reform the WTO in 2018 and 2019. This book argues that the Trump Administration reform proposals have been much more aggressive and far-reaching than the Obama Administration before it, threatening to erode hard-won special and differential treatment rights of developing countries. By blocking the appointment of new Appellate Body members, the US has effectively paralysed the Appellate Body and deepened the crisis of the multilateral trading system. Developing countries have responded to the proposals and called for the WTO to be development-oriented and inclusive. This book provides a critical analysis of the US-led reform proposals and seeks to build a discourse around an alternative set of concepts or principles to guide the multilateral trading system based on fairness, solidarity, social justice, inclusiveness and sustainability.
Author: Faizel Ismail served as the Ambassador Permanent Representative of South Africa to the WTO (2010-2014).
The TRIPS Agreement Article 73 Security Exceptions and the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Frederick Abbott
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Governments to contemplate measures to override patents and other intellectual property rights (IPRs) in order to facilitate production and distribution of vaccines, treatments, diagnostics and medical devices. This paper discusses whether the COVID-19 pandemic may be considered an “emergency in international relations” and how WTO Member States may invoke Article 73 (“Security Exceptions”) of the TRIPS Agreement as the legal basis for overriding IPRs otherwise required to be made available or enforced. It concludes that the pandemic constitutes an emergency in international relations within the meaning of Article 73(b)(iii) and that this provision allows Governments to take actions necessary to protect their essential security interests.
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.