Worldwide student competition brings WTO debate battle to Geneva

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The final round of the ELSA Moot Court Competition on WTO Law is taking place in Geneva this week. Eighteen teams from Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia-Pacific have made it to the finals to contest one of the key issues underpinning WTO trade negotiations – commitment to public health.

The 2001 WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health was a vital step in increasing access to medicines in health emergencies. It permits governments to temporarily set aside patents on specific medicines to protect the health of their people.

Many of the key arguments of the WTO negotiations on this matter as well as the issues surrounding free trade agreements (FTAs) between WTO members will be used by the students as they debate the issues at hand. Students will play out a dispute between two WTO members – one setting aside a pharmaceutical patent, the other challenging this on behalf of its industry – in front of a distinguished panel of judges, including many WTO luminaries.

Giorgio Sacerdoti, Chairman, WTO Appellate Body, said: "The WTO dispute settlement system fulfills at least two important systemic functions in today world society: (1) "ensure the respect of treaty based rights and obligations in a multilateral setting by providing the speedy resolution of disputes in an impartial way, based on the rule of law", (2) "by collective monitoring ensure implementation of those decisions". Lawyers are called to play an increasing role in this mechanism. ELSA has to be commended for preparing students to this challenge and opportunity on a worldwide basis."