The Making of International Trade Policy
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The Making of International Trade Policy

NGOs, Agenda-Setting and the WTO

Hannah Murphy

This book investigates the contributions of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to policymaking at the WTO, challenging the idea that NGOs can be narrowly understood as potential ‘democratic antidotes’ to the imperfections of Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs).
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Chapter 5: Safeguards Pending: TRIPS and the Access to Medicines Campaign

Hannah Murphy


INTRODUCTION Through their access to medicines campaign that began in the late 1990s, NGOs such as MSF, Oxfam International and Health Action International (HAI) significantly contributed to the international debate over the application of IP rules to essential pharmaceutical products required in developing nations. In highlighting the problems faced by developing nations in implementing the WTO’s TRIPS agreement, NGO campaigners used numerous political opportunities to mobilize supporters and engage developing country governments to contest the issue in the WTO arena, thereby playing a role in the re-evaluation of the agreement itself. Specifically the NGO campaign helped unleash a series of developments at the WTO on the issue, including the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, the ‘30 August temporary waiver’ in 2003, and most significantly, the first ever amendment of a core WTO agreement in the form of the ‘6 December Decision’ in 2005 (WTO 2005c). In exploring the relationship dynamics between NGOs and developing states in the context of the international trade regime, this case study illustrates that NGOs can play a role in the international trade policy process at the agenda-setting stage, despite their lack of formal status at the organization. In contrast to the labour standards case study (see Chapter 4), it also provides the opportunity to examine the different roles that NGOs play in the international trade regime when their objectives align with less powerful states. The WTO’s TRIPS agreement, which came into force with the establishment of the WTO, is the first multilateral...

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