The Regional Trade and Public Health Workshop held in Kuwait from December 10 to 14 brought together 28 senior officials specializing in health, intellectual property, and trade from WTO Arab and Middle East member countries and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The workshop, hosted by the International Monetary Fund Middle East Center for Economics and Finance (IMF-CEF), saw active collaboration with the secretariats of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In his opening address, Dr. Paulo Drummond, Director of IMF-CEF, emphasized the significance of fostering synergies between trade policies and public health initiatives. The overarching goal is to ensure the well-being of people while simultaneously promoting economic growth.
The five-day program aimed to foster a multidisciplinary approach, providing practical insights into how trade policies can facilitate access to health technologies. It also delved into the role of intellectual property (IP) and explored real-world experiences and support mechanisms for technology transfer.
Representatives from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, the Sultanate of Oman, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the GCC shared their national experiences, contributing to the establishment of a common understanding of the intricate challenges at the intersection of trade, IP, and public health.
Participants actively engaged in discussions on practical pathways to enhance collaboration, communication, and coordination among relevant sectors and authorities. A key takeaway was the importance of establishing ecosystems that promote technology transfer between academia, government agencies, and the private sector, supporting the development of a knowledge-based economy in the region.
Dr. Sultana Al Sabahi, Senior Health Economist at the Ministry of Health of Oman, emphasized that "public policy tools like intellectual property and awareness raising can support the next frontier of innovation and access to health technologies in our region."
During the closing round table, participants discussed key insights and identified areas for future collaboration. It was unanimously recognized that agile cooperation among different government authorities is essential to find practical solutions and formulate initiatives that further integrate trade, intellectual property, and health policies.
The WTO Secretariat customizes workshops for specific regions and sub-regions, contributing to a better understanding of the complex dynamics at the nexus of trade and public health.