U.S. Official to Discuss Trade; Africa Hopes to Discuss AIDS
January 13, 2003
When Ambassador Robert E. Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative, travels to southern Africa this week, new free trade agreements will take up most of his agenda. But he will be met by activists in street protests and officials in conference rooms who will be asking tough questions about American policies on AIDS and farm subsidies. Specifically, African countries are concerned that the United States blocked a trade deal last month that would have allowed poor countries to import generic versions of patented medicines, and they question why American farmers continue to receive huge subsidies.
African officials quietly say that they are insulted that Zoellick is representing the United States rather than President Bush, who was scheduled to attend the Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum in Mauritius. Bush scrapped the trip last month as the administration appeared to step up preparations for a possible war in Iraq.
"We were very sad when we learned that President Bush wouldn't travel to Africa and witness the devastation wrought by AIDS-related illnesses," said Zackie Achmat, president of the Treatment Action Campaign of South Africa.
Zoellick said in a statement that a future free trade zone would "give new hope and economic opportunity to the people of southern Africa by increasing trade, creating new jobs, boosting economic growth and development." Absent from Zoellick's list of goals for his trip was any mention of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
"Free trade doesn't work for the dead," said Asia Russell, director of international policy of the nonprofit Health Global Access Project. "A modest expansion of trade will be of little comfort to millions of Africans who will die of treatable illnesses."
Ministers at the World Trade Organization failed to resolve the dispute last month when the United States insisted on limiting developing countries' access to generic drug imports to medicines that treat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. The European Union suggested on Thursday that the draft agreement would expand the list of diseases to at least 22.
01.11.03; Elizabeth Becker
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.