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Thailand Unfazed As US Worries Over Copyright Violations

The Thailand Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, has defended his government's move to allow the introduction of generic versions of three patented drugs-in spite of US worries over intellectual property rights in the kingdom.

"We still defend what we have done, and we can explain our action to other countries as well the world community," Surayud was quoted.

This Tuesday, Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla will be traveling to the United along with the head of the Thai Food and Drugs Administration, in order to sign an agreement with the Clinton Foundation on obtaining cheaper drugs.

Mongkol would again travel to Washington on May 21 to explain Thailand's position to US lawmakers and other government agencies, according to official sources.

In an annual report released this week, the US trade office said it was concerned by "an overall deterioration in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in Thailand."

The United States criticized Thailand on Monday for steps it took to override patents of two HIV/AIDS drugs, but stopped short of threatening action at the World Trade Organization.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office (USTR), said it was elevating Thailand to its "priority watch list" because of an "overall deterioration in the protection and enforcement" of intellectual property rights there. "In late 2006 and early 2007, there were further indications of a weakening of respect for patents, as the Thai Government announced decisions to issue compulsory licenses for several patented pharmaceutical products," the USTR was quoted.

The Doha declaration adopted by WTO members in November 2001 reaffirmed that countries have some flexibility under international trade rules to ensure their populations have access to life-saving medicines.

Those include compulsory licenses requiring drug patent holders to allow others to produce their drugs.

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