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China Accepts WTO Amendment to Enhance Access to Drugs for Public Health Crises

China's top legislature accepted on Sunday an amendment to the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) to enhance access to medicines when dealing with public health emergencies.

The amendment, approved by WTO members on Dec. 6, 2005, allows countries to override patent rights when necessary to export life-saving drugs to developing countries that face public health crises but cannot produce drugs for themselves.

The amendment also makes permanent the flexibility of developing and least developed members to produce or import generic copies of patented drugs to deal with epidemics.

"The amendment will play a positive role in balancing relations between intellectual property rights protection and public health promotion, helping developing and least developed countries to deal with public health problems as well," said Ma Xiuhong, Vice Minister of Commerce, when briefing lawmakers on the importance of the approval.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said the agreement to amend the TRIPS provisions confirms once again that members are determined to ensure the WTO trading system contributes to humanitarian and development goals.

The amendment will be formally incorporated into the TRIPS Agreement when two thirds of the WTO members have ratified it. The WTO said members have set themselves until Dec. 1, 2007 to do this. The waiver remains in force until then.

The bill was submitted Wednesday to a five-day session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, for deliberation.

(Xinhua News Agency October 29, 2007)

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