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Poorest countries granted TRIPs extension

Some of the world’s poorest countries will have access to affordable medicine for another eight years after WTO members agreed to extend the deadline for them to implement intellectual property provisions under the TRIPs Agreement.

Last week, the WTO issued a decision to extend the deadline for what it calls the “least developed countries” until July 1 2021, and said that a further extension may be possible when the time comes.

The previous deadline, which has already been extended once before, was July 1 2013.

The decision was made on the first day of a two-day meeting of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Council. Members unanimously agreed to the extension but had to resolve different views on the terms through negotiation.

At present, the WTO recognises 49 jurisdictions as “least developed countries”. Of these, 34 are members of the WTO.

The extension does not provide exempt the countries from their other obligations under the TRIPs Agreement, such as a separate transition period for them to protect patents covering pharmaceutical inventions.

“The agreement reached by members makes very clear that we can come together and get things done,” said WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy in a statement.

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