UN human rights expert urges Peru, US to protect health in any trade deal

UN human rights expert urges Peru, US to protect health in any trade deal

UN News Center

6 July 2004 - As the United States and Peru negotiate a bilateral trade pact, a United Nations human rights expert has urged them to ensure any agreement includes public health safeguards so that essential drugs do not become unaffordable for millions of Peruvians.

Paul Hunt, the UN Commission on Human Rights’ Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, said too many Peruvians already die from treatable diseases and other medical conditions.

“The trade agreement must improve - not further impede - access to essential medicines, especially for those living in poverty,” he said in a statement yesterday after returning from an official visit to Peru.

More than half of Peruvians live in poverty, with nearly one in four of the country’s inhabitants living in extreme poverty, defined as having an income of less than a dollar a day.

Mr. Hunt said the right of countries to protect public health in any trade pacts they strike is enshrined in both an agreement by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in the subsequent Doha Declaration, which in November 2001 set out the scope for future international trade negotiations.

Countries have the right to deploy such measures as compulsory licences - which allow government agencies or private companies to manufacture or import a cheap, generic version of a patented drug - to help reduce the costs of essential medicines.

Mr. Hunt said Peru was also bound by its national constitution and its ratification of several international human rights treaties to protect the right to health - adding that right includes having access to affordable essential medicines.

The US and Peru are holding talks about establishing a bilateral trade agreement as part of wider negotiations about a possible trade deal between the US and the Andean region in South America.

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