The need to extend the WTO TRIPS pharmaceuticals transition period for LDCs in the COVID-19 era: Evidence from Bangladesh

27 August 2020.  CDP Policy Review No. 10 By Daniel Gay and Kevin Gallagher.

Bangladesh is one of the most successful least developed countries (LDCs). The country has made such strides that in 2021 the United Nations Committee for Development Policy will consider whether it should graduate out of the LDC category altogether. Like few others, Bangladesh took advantage of WTO flexibilities to build a vibrant pharmaceuticals industry that not only provides needed industrialization and employment but also gives access to essential medicines to millions of Bangladeshis as well as people in other developing countries and LDCs. LDC graduation would bring a loss of WTO exceptions, particularly in the intellectual property arena. This policy brief synthesizes recent research, showing that Bangladesh’s vital pharmaceutical industry would be threatened if the country had to adhere fully to WTO rules upon graduation from LDC status. Given that COVID-19 has dealt such a severe blow to Bangladesh’s development and health prospects, these papers point to the need for Bangladesh to be able to maintain its WTO flexibilities in order for the sector to remain a source of economic growth and health provision in the years to come.

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