Executive Course on Trade, Intellectual Property & Health Diplomacy



Twenty years after the creation of the World Trade Organization,trade liberalisation is moving forward through bilateral and regional trade agreements. Not only are the number of trade agreements increasing, but the content of these agreements is also evolving. Initially, agreements focused on traditional trade, areas such as tariffs, services, and intellectual property. The debate about the role of intellectual property in pharmaceutical innovation has evolved and progress has been made, for example, through increased use of licensing agreements and patent pooling, as well as through the use of the remaining political flexibilities to adapt national intellectual property systems to individual country needs. But the launch of new, high-priced treatments for hepatitis C, cancer and orphan diseases has also fuelled the debate about what constitutes a fair price. New issues have emerged, such as the lack of investment in the development of new antibiotics and treatments for pathogens with pandemic potential.

Other traditional elements, such as investor-to-state arbitration,have suddenly emerged as threats to national health policy. New health measures to counter the increasing disease burden in non-communicable diseases - through the reduction of “bad” fat, sugar and salt in foods and beverages, and reduced tobacco consumption – are often in conflict with trade policies and agreements. Other global agreements and areas, such as the new WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation, have the potential to facilitate access to affordable health products but are broadly overlooked by the health community.

Ministries of health are facing the challenge of coping with the potential adverse impact of trade agreements on national health policies and strategies. Ministries of trade must be aware of how and why trade policy impacts public health. How can ministries of health and trade work together to seize opportunities and formulate a positive agenda for such negotiations and how can they avoid national health measures from conflicting with international trade rules?


This course can be credited as an advanced module to the Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Global Health Diplomacy. 

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