VATICAN SPEAKS OUT: DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
On August 10, 2001 Jim Nicholson was sworn-in as the sixth US Ambassador to the Holy See, and presented his credentials to the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II on September 13, 2001.
At year-end 2002, the Vatican called in the Ambassador to explain that the Pope wants to see the gap bridged between the United States and poor developing countries in the WTO over access to drugs. Efforts to reach agreement by the end of 2002 completely unraveled when the Bush Administration, under heavy pressure from pharmaceutical companies, blocked a compromise fashioned by the European Union. It is believed that substantially all of the other 143 WTO members could have agreed to the compromise. The Holy See, which has observer status at the WTO, emphasised Pope John Paul's II warning that "promises made to the poor should be particularly binding," and that "the failure to keep commitments in the sphere of aid to developing nations is a serious moral question."
Efforts by French President Jacques Chirac to persuade the Bush Administration to accept the compromise, and a round of telephone calls by trade ministers from friendly governments, including the United Kingdom and Australia, failed to have an impact. Although discussions will resume early in 2003 to find an acceptable solution, it is hard to imagine that US intransigence on access to drugs will be an aid to furthering other US views at the WTO, including its recent call for the global elimination of goods tariffs by 2015.
ISSN 1492-7187, TRADE POLICY MONITOR, January 2003,
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