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On balance 2002 was a bad year for free trade and 2003 could be worse Last year there were a number of unilateral protectionist measures taken by developed countries the most controversial being the US imposition of steel tariffs and its enactment of the farm bill Even more worrisome was the lack of significant progress in the World Trade Organizations round of trade liberalization that had been launched in November 2001 in Doha Qatar Remember how difficult it was to get that round rolling A significant group of developing countries held out until the last possible moment on the grounds that either developed countries had failed to deliver on commitments theyd made under the previous Uruguay Round or that certain WTO provisions had in practice proved to be counterproductive Then there were those developed countries that opposed further trade liberalization in certain sectors The European Union for instance persistently avoided negotiations on agriculture and only agreed to them after introducing a number of complex issues into the negotiating agenda--issues that developing countries remain highly skeptical of to this day Access to Medicines Still a Problem Intellectual property rights is one area in which developing countries demanded a more accommodating position from industrialized countries The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights TRIPS has been an integral part of the multilateral trading system since the Uruguay Round It aims to strike a balance between providing incentives for future inventions and making existing inventions available to the masses The effects of this agreement on the prices of pharmaceuticals hinder developing countries in their efforts to deal with public health crises such as the AIDS epidemic The deadlock on this was broken by a special declaration that reaffirmed the right of governments to grant compulsory licenses in cases of national emergency or other extreme urgency allowing a third party to produce a patented product without the consent of the patent owner This provision however
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