International agreements, laws and regulations

 The regulation and resolution of disputes can be resolved through UN agencies and by international courts.
With regard to global health, key international WTO agreements cover the following areas:

  • the protection of intellectual property (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights - TRIPS Agreement)
  • trade in services (General Agreement on Trade in Services - GATS
  • the reduction of barriers to trade (Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement - TBT)
  • measures to protect trade health (Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures - SPS)

International treaties and laws include the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the International Health Regulations and orphan drug laws.

Tobacco regulation is one example of where the European Commission has played an influential role, on a global scale and in many regards, beyond the activities of the member states and the traditional interpretation of the EU's legal competencies in public health. In the last 20 years, the EU has undertaken an extensive range of measures that has had an enormous influence, both within and outside the EU.

The EU also gave the European Commission dispensation to negotiate, at WHO, the International Health Regulations of 2005. In the event, the European Commission played a central role in these negotiations. The regulations require the 193 WHO member states to monitor and control threats to international health, including infectious diseases and potential bioterrorism. It did not specify what should be monitored and controlled but left it to states to identify and monitor key threats. Within the EU, the European Centre for Disease Control, along with partners in EU member states, will play a central role in coordinating international public health measures. Other states may also require support and advice to help define threats to international health and to strengthen their health protection services.

Orphan drug laws were copied from the US - where they originally applied to rare diseases - and applied by the EU to drugs for low-income countries where drug development would not otherwise be financially viable.

These developments demonstrate the advantages of regionally coordinated action on international agreements, laws and regulations for health and the growing role of the EU and EC in this arena.

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