Groundhog Day: Health-related provisions in FTAs and TRIPS

Groundhog Day: Health-related provisions in FTAs and TRIPS

Frederick M. Abbott

Session on the TRIPS Agreement in the light of preferential trade and investment agreements

At “The Changing Global Innovation and Intellectual Property Policy Landscape: Present Challenges and Future Directions (II): TRIPS at 20 and beyond”
Organized by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), October 30-31, 2014, WTO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
Text posted - file below


When I was asked to address the subject of the impact of preferential trading agreements, and particularly free trade agreements (FTAs), on public health within the context of the TRIPS Agreement, the movie “Groundhog Day”, with Bill Murray and Andie McDowell, came to mind. I am sure you will all recall this film in which the flawed protagonist, Bill Murray, wakes up at the same time day after day to find that it is the beginning of the same day. That is the general sense I have about the subject of public health and FTAs. In the movie, while repeating the same day, Bill Murray learns, adapts, and improves himself in order to win the affections of his romantic interest, Andie McDowell, and he eventually succeeds. In the movies, not surprisingly, there is a happy ending.  It is not so clear in the real world of public health and FTAs what will be the result. We may be learning and adapting, or we may be repeatedly beating our heads against the same wall.