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Kennedy, Waxman Call for Investigation of U.S. Trade Agreements and International Health

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Kennedy, Waxman Call for Investigation of U.S. Trade Agreements and International Health

Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative Henry Waxman have requested that the Government Accountability Office investigate the Administration's trade negotiations and their negative effects on developing countries' access to medicines. According to the Trade Act of 2002, the Administration is obligated to promote access to healthcare for all countries in their trade practices, and Sen. Kennedy and Rep. Waxman want to ensure those obligations are fulfilled.

Senator Kennedy said, "We've requested this investigation to help understand how the Administration has balanced commercial drug interests with the health needs of poor people living in developing countries. In this era of HIV epidemics, avian flu outbreaks, and other public health threats, it is essential that we promote good health and access to medicines in every nation."

Rep. Waxman said "Administration trade agreements have numerous provisions that threaten access to affordable medicine. We have to recognize that the Bush Administration's single-minded pursuit of intellectual property protections for drug companies can have potentially devastating consequences for the public health in developing countries."

Senator Kennedy and Representative Waxman have also requested the Administration retract its demand that the World Health Organization withdraw a report on trade and health. The report criticizes the trade practices of some developed countries - including the U.S. - as interfering with developing countries' rights to promote public health.

In response to the Administration's letter, Kennedy said, "The World Health Organization's study, and others like it, suggests that our trade policies have hampered access to life-saving medicines, such as HIV therapies and treatments for avian flu. If this is the case, we need to know—and we need to change our policies."

Rep. Waxman said, "Most of our trade policy takes shape far from the public spotlight. We need more analysis of the implications of our policies - not less. The Bush Administration should assess its own obligations to public health rather than seeking to quash any criticism."

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