WASHINGTON - January 27 - Corporate lobbyists have an undue influence on the global fight against HIV/AIDS and poverty, says a new report by ActionAid International.
ActionAid's report, Under the Influence, reveals a worldwide explosion of corporate lobbying, contributing to unfair trade rules that may cost lives. In 2004, The US pharmaceutical industry alone spent over $1 billion on lobbying.
The report cites examples of the results of this spending, which includes privileged corporate access to, and excessive influence over the WTO policymaking process. For example, drug companies, according to findings, are using WTO rules to safeguard their profits and hinder the fight against HIV/AIDS.
In 2003, the report relates, senior officials from Pfizer, the world's largest drug company, negotiated directly with the WTO's director-general and its member states to block a proposal that would allow poor countries to import cheaper copies of patented drugs during health emergencies. Drug industry lobbying at the WTO brought about a rule change last year which ensured that countries such as Brazil, India and Thailand will find it much harder to make cheaper copies of patented medicines.
Meanwhile in 2005, PhRMA, the US drug industry pressure group whose members include Pfizer and Merck, lobbied the Indian government to bring in a new law that threatens to deny AIDS treatment for up to 350,000 people who depend on low-cost Indian drugs worldwide.
Said Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Trade Policy Analyst at ActionAid USA, "This is a result of the fact that in the US, the committees that advise our government on trade policy are completely dominated by corporations. The very few environmental and public health groups that have been allowed to participate have only been able to do so after extensive legal battles."
Said Rick Rowden, Senior ActionAid Policy Analyst, "Public health officials and donor governments have real humanitarian and strategic goals to achieve when it comes to fighting HIV/AIDS and other diseases of poverty in developing countries, but what we see instead are a few powerful private companies using patent law and their own easy access to official trade negotiators to undermine such long-term public goals in favor their the short- term financial interests of their stock prices and quarterly dividends to shareholders. At what point will citizens say 'enough is enough!' and begin demanding that such private sector actors be regulated effectively so that their prerogatives can no longer undermine the effectiveness of our long-term public health policies?"
The report is being launched in conjunction with the World Economic Forum at Davos, where 25 trade ministers are currently meeting for a "mini-ministerial" on the global economy.