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Hon. Takeo Hiranima
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry
Tokyo, Japan

Dear Mr. Hiranima:

The WTO ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar provides an ideal occasion for Japan to make a new commitment to multilateral and bilateral trade policy consistent with concern for the global crisis of HIV/AIDS. We are writing to urge your leadership toward a commitment from the Japanese government to allowing all countries suffering from HIV/AIDS' devastation to make full use of TRIPS exceptions in their pursuit of access to affordable anti-AIDS drugs for their populations.

The vast majority of the more than 22 millions deaths from AIDS thus far have occurred in countries where treatment for AIDS is largely unaffordable. The overwhelming majority of the more than 36 million persons infected today live in countries where they can have no reasonable hope of affordable treatment. HIV/AIDS is an unprecedented social, economic and human rights crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. It has killed 18 million Africans in the prime of their productive lives and left a generation of desperate and impoverished orphans.

The recent proposal of the United States Trade Representative to extend the transition period for TRIPS compliance for least developed countries in Africa to the year 2016 and to place a moratorium on initiation of disputes against these countries is a step in the right direction. This proposal, however, does not go far enough. Firstly, Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe would not be covered by these measures since they are not currently classified as "least developed." For all of these countries, HIV/AIDS is a national emergency. In at least two of these countries, government officials have spoken publicly about pressures on them from the WTO or from trade representatives in wealthy countries to refrain from discussions of compulsory licensing or parallel importation of generic versions of antiretroviral drugs. In addition, this proposal does nothing for countries such as Thailand, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and others that are either not "least developed" or not in Africa but have HIV/AIDS problems that constitute national emergencies.

Secondly, we are concerned that developed country members of WTO have not always pursued bilateral trade policies that are consistent with the spirit of the emergency provisions of TRIPS, particularly as they can be of assistance to countries in HIV/AIDS emergencies. WTO member states that are committed to the application of TRIPS to all countries must not use bilateral trade policies to undermine AIDS-affected countries' ability to use TRIPS provisions to address national emergencies.

Thirdly, unless wealthy countries provide more leadership to increase the support of the international community for greater investment in the HIV/AIDS problem in Africa, Asia and Latin America, there is no reason to think that things will be much different in 2016 than they would be in 2006 or than they are now. The Global Fund established by the United Nations Secretary-General as one mechanism for mobilizing resources of the international community to address the HIV/AIDS crisis has attracted only a fraction of the estimated $7 to $10 billion needed annually.

We urge you to use the Doha summit to make a clear and unambiguous pledge that Japan will use neither multilateral nor bilateral pressures to prevent AIDS-affected countries that have judged HIV/AIDS to constitute a national emergency from using the full range of TRIPS provisions to increase anti-AIDS drug access for their people.

Sincerely yours,

Joanne Csete
Director, HIV/AIDS and
Human Rights Program

Arvind Ganesan
Director, Business and
Human Rights Program

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