The Instigator
Pro (for)
4 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Resolved: The TRIPS agreement is unfair.

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/8/2015 Category: Health
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,409 times Debate No: 74668
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (17)
Votes (1)




Note: This debate should be impossible to accept. If you find a clever way to work around the rules, you automatically forfeit all seven points. If you would like to debate, please say so in the comments after reading this opening round.


This will be the first serious debate I've had in a while. Okay, I understated that. This will be the first serious debate I've had since Summer 2012. Therefore, I hope this will go well.

I plan to start this on 9th May, 2015, and hope to find an opponent by then. As I wish to have a serious opponent, I will only accept an opponent who has finished at least one debate with serious discussion. It does not have to be won; it only has to display that you are genuinely capable of proper debate.

However, to prevent noob-sniping, I will also not accept members with very high ELO. I will put a lot of effort into the debate, so it will also take a lot of effort for you to take my arguments apart. I also don't have high ELO. If you want to noob-snipe my debate, I assure you that the yields will not be proportional to the effort required. You may have better luck noob-sniping 1000-character debates.

As such, I would prefer an opponent with ELO between 2000 and 3500, but that is not set in stone - it is simply a general rule.


The full resolution is just this: 'Resolved: The TRIPS agreement is unfair.' I know this is vague, and will welcome suggestions to change it, but please read my rationale for choosing this statement first.

I know the statement is vague, for fairness is subjective. Some would call progressive tax unfair. Others would say flat tax is unfair. The problem is, if I make the resolution more concrete, it will likely be biased towards either Pro or Con. For example, if I said 'Resolved: The TRIPS agreement is detrimental to developing countries', it would be much easier for me to argue, but then again, it would be unfair for the other side.

1. Debate structure:
R1: Con posts opening arguments or accepts.
R2-3: Arguments and rebuttals. If Con posted opening arguments in R1, he or she should also post his or her conclusion here.
R4: Arguments and conclusion. If Con posted opening arguments in R1, he or she should waive this round.
2. No trolling, no semantics, no kritiks (although I don't see how that's possible in this debate).
3. In general, all arguments should be posted inside the debate, but if you are really busy, I will accept arguments posted in the comments shortly after your forfeiture of the round.
4. BOP is shared. Pro argues that it is unfair. Con argues that it is fair.

Good luck!


Ok Great to start with this interesting debate!

I guess Pro has mentioned all the terms, conditions and rules for this debate, therefore i would only accept this round to further debate with opening arguments of him.
I will accept the challenge for this debate and would like to further start with our second round.

Wishing you good luck and hoping to have a peaceful debate!
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks, Con.

C1) Monopoly pricing is unfair to consumers.

The purpose of TRIPS is to protect intellectual property. Intellectual property is what we call a pure public good: Concurrent consumption does not reduce the quantity or quality of a good to others, and the good is non-rival (you don't compete to get it) and non-exclusive (you don't stop anyone else from using it when you use it). This leads to a free-rider problem, in which some people benefit from the good without payment. Free riders pay zero price to obtain the good. The result is that we end up producing fewer goods and less benefit for society.

The maximum willingness of honest users to pay for the good at each quantity makes up the marginal private benefit curve. The maximum willingness of all users to pay for the good at each quantity is the marginal social benefit curve. The divergence between the two curves prevents the market from reaching equilibrium condition. The consumer surplus, what the consumers gain (CS) and the producer surplus, what the producers gain (PS) form the total social surplus (TSS), which, in this case, is not maximised because of this divergence, leading to deadweight loss.

Compare to a free market:

The purpose of TRIPS is to turn a public good into private good, thereby eliminating free riders and shifting the MPB curve back to the MSB curve. This eliminates deadweight loss, to reach a socially optimal situation - economic efficiency.

Yet does TRIPS really lead to economic efficiency?

The implementation of IP rights grants monopoly power to the individual or firm that holds it. The problem with monopoly is that they are, well, inefficient - if simple monopoly pricing is practised. I will not go into the details of this pricing method, as the brevity of the debate does not allow it. Put simple, a monopolist will produce up to the point where marginal revenue = marginal cost, while the efficient position is marginal benefit = marginal cost.

The sole producer is granted monopoly power in the market and enjoys all the producer surplus, while the consumer enjoys greatly reduced consumer surplus. Deadweight loss is also produced. This is unfair to the consumer.

If the monopolist has enough market power and information as well as the ability to separate markets and prevent resale, it can practise price discriminiation. I will cover just first-degree PD here. The monopolist knows the maximum willingness to pay of all customers, so it can raise prices so that you pay exactly the highest price you're willing to pay - which means consumers gain nothing from trade at all! This is, again, obviously unfair to the consumer.

Now, of course, all this can be ignored if we are talking about copyrights or trademarks. After all, there are a plenty of substitutes for your latest Harry Potter novel or the latest version of Microsoft Word. These open-market monopolists have a plenty of competition, and thus smaller market power, and raising prices will cause them to lose more customers. Yet when pharmaceutical companies come into play, things are different as medicines often have no close substitutes and the demand is less elastic. An increase in price will lead to a smaller-than-proportionate decrease in quantity transacted, so they have a greater tendency to abuse their market power and charge higher prices.

Is this really happening? We do not even need to look as far as developing nations. In the United States, which is a proponent of TRIPS, medical patents have allowed monopolists to charge prices that are up to several thousand percent above free market price, according to the Centre for Economic and Policy Research. (1) We can thus that medical patents, which are necessitated by TRIPS, is unfair to consumers.

C2) The signing of the TRIPS agreement was slanted towards developed countries.
The TRIPS agreement was a protectionist move by the US, the policy-makers from which was worried of its increasing trade deficits. It sought to maintain its comparative advantage in international trade through protectionism. Business groups from developed countries also played a huge role in the elaboration of the TRIPS agreement. Less developed countries, by contrast, had very little input. Their initial reluctance only abated because of threats of American sanctions, lack of full understanding of the agreement's implications, and good prospects in other sectors. They clearly had much less say in the treaty, which is therefore unfair. (2)

C3) TRIPS benefits the economies of developed nations and hurts those of the developing.
The majority of technology patents are held by developed nations, most of which already have much protection of IP rights. The same cannot be said of developing nations. They incur high costs in the implementation of TRIPS' requirements. After the implementation of TRIPS, exports from developed nations to developing ones will certainly increase as developing countries pay royalties or import from to developed ones. (Note that while the purchase of a patent is calculated in the capital account, royalties belong to the current account.) This will worsen the current account balance of the developing countries for sure. In fact, it is estimated that the TRIPS resulted in a $20 billion redistribution of wealth from developing countries (which import technology) to developed ones (which export technology). (2)

India's generic industry is an excellent example. India's pharmaceutical industry, a US$15.6 billion industry that is expected to reach $35.9 in 2016, is heavily reliant on the generics sector, with over 60,000 generics brands. (4)

C4) TRIPS renders medication inaccessible to the poor in developing countries.
Before venturing to actual examples, let us look at the theoretical basis. In a market economy, the basic function of price is to determine who gets scarce resources. The function I would like to deal with here is the rationing function of price, which means goods and services are awarded to the consumers with the highest maximum willingness to pay. As some users willing to pay a higher price can get the resource while those who are less willing cannot get it, it is said that the less willing users are discriminated against and this phenomenon is known as price competition.

TRIPS, as we've seen above, drastically raises medicine prices. This means more users with lower maximum willingness to pay cannot receive the medicine, leaving users with higher maximum willingness to pay. Obviously, higher-income users have higher maximum willingness to pay, so we can conclude from this situation that low-income users are discriminated against.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 'Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.' (8) Access to medicines are a part of this. (7) However, as some are now denied adequate health because of their income, we can conclude that the situation is unfair.

To further develop this point, we need to look at the situation of the generics industry. Less developed countries frequently reverse-engineer patented drugs from developed countries to work out generics, allowing them to sell drugs at a far lower price than is possible without patents, which protects the health of their citizens. This was possible for countries that lacked patent protection for medicines. This situation is similar to that of the industrialised nations themselves many years ago, before they had developed their own thriving pharmaceutical industries. Yet under TRIPS, this is no longer possible under Article 27 of the agreement. (3) As cheap generics are no longer available, expensive patent drugs must be purchased, essentially discriminating against those who are unable to afford such drugs. This situation is thus unfair.

There are many ways in which this situation manifests itself in developing nations. For now, I shall concentrate on two examples: South Africa and India.

South Africa's situation is the most frequent contention against TRIPS. Large pharmaceutical companies sued South Africa over the use of generics. They had used TRIPS flexibilities known as compulsory licensing, which was challenged legally by the pharmaceutical corporations. The United States threatened economic sanctions as well. Although the case was finally overturned amidst public outcry (5), the three-year delay in the provision of compulsory licences must have caused a great number of deaths in South Africa, which had an AIDS prevalence of rate of 24.8% in 2001. (6)

India's HIV/AIDS case is another one that has garnered international attention. India did not implement patent laws pre-TRIPS, and thus provided generics drugs to its general populace (as well as fellow developing nations). First-line AIDS drugs continue to be provided by generics manufacturers at a low cost to AIDS patients, but second-line drugs are protected by patents. As soon as a patient develops natural resistance to first-line drugs, they will have to face the massive financial burden of second-line regimens, which are around nine times as expensive as generics. (9)



A contentious agreement

Of all the agreements administered by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is undoubtedly the most controversial with respect to its development-related impacts. The agreement requires all WTO member states to establish minimum standards of legal protection and enforcement for a number of different forms of intellectual property rights (IPRs).

Many developing countries hold that the TRIPS agreement " which came into force in 1995 " is unbalanced in that it favours developed countries and transnational corporations, and at the same time is unhelpful or even harmful to their own interests. In addition, concerns have been raised about the moves to ensure that developing countries accept higher standards of intellectual property protection than the WTO requires, even before they have determined how best to implement the TRIPS agreement in ways that support economic development and poverty alleviation.

Non-governmental organisations have criticised TRIPS on the grounds that it imposes various costs on developing countries " such as more expensive drugs, agricultural inputs and foreign-owned technologies " without producing sufficient longer-term gains in areas like trade and investment. Developed countries tend to counter that strong IPR protection will attract investment to developing countries and stimulate local innovation and creativity. In this way, they say, the poorer countries have nothing to fear from TRIPS.

The development of TRIPS

The rights covered by TRIPS include copyright and related rights; trademarks; geographical indications; industrial designs; patents; layout-designs of integrated circuits; protection of undisclosed information (trade secrets); and control of anti-competitive practices in contractual licences.

The standards of protection and enforcement required of WTO member states are very high, in that they are essentially those that developed countries themselves have only recently reached. In that sense, TRIPS marks a coming together of three trends in international IPR law whose beginnings date back to the end of the nineteenth century but that have become especially apparent in the last two decades.

The first trend embodied in TRIPS has been the widening of the scope of subject matter that can be protected, and the reduction or elimination of 'exceptions'. Common examples of the latter, some of which are required by TRIPS, include the extension of copyright protection to computer programs, which are now treated as literary works, and the application of patent protection to plants, animals, micro-organisms, DNA sequences, and pharmaceuticals. In many countries drugs had been excluded from patent protection on the grounds of public interest.

The second trend is the addition of new types of rights to the global IPR regime such as plant breeders' rights, and rights to layout-designs of integrated circuits (which is explicitly required by TRIPS).

The third is the progressive international standardisation of the basic features of IPRs. For instance, patent regulations increasingly provide protection for a period of 20 years from the date of application. Until recently there was wide variation in timescales between countries. Also, patent applications in almost all countries must now be subjected to literature searches and examinations to ensure that what they describe is genuinely new, inventive and industrially applicable. Moreover, patent rights are now almost universally assigned to the first applicant rather than the first inventor (except in the United States where it is the opposite).

Intellectual property and development

The precise nature of the link between IPRs and economic development is unclear. The main issue is not whether or not IPRs can further economic development. In fact most governments agree that they can and do. History suggests that well-functioning IPR systems have contributed " some argue significantly " to the industrial revolutions that took place in nineteenth century Europe, North America and Japan, and continue to do so today, as indicated for example by the rapid growth of the modern pharmaceutical industry.

More controversial is the extent to which IPR systems should be allowed " as they were prior to TRIPS " to vary according to the levels of development and technological self-sufficiency that individual developing countries have reached. The issue here is whether a relatively stringent IPR regime (as embodied by TRIPS) will best encourage economic growth in all countries, or whether a more flexible one may be more appropriate for some of them.

Developed countries and business associations, whose members benefit directly from effective IPR regimes, tend to adopt the first position. They argue that strong IPR legislation will enable developing countries to attract more investment " since foreign companies will be reluctant to invest in a country where their technology might be copied with little recompense " and will thereby gain improved access to new technologies introduced from outside. Developing countries would also be encouraged to generate more innovations of their own, because of the rewards to inventors and innovators offered by the IPR system.

But many developing country governments are concerned that the legal standards required by TRIPS, especially for patents, may simply be too high for their countries at the present time. For example, they worry that having to extend IPR protection to advanced industrial fields such as biotechnology and information and communications technology will only benefit foreign businesses, since their domestic firms lack the capacity to innovate in this field. Being unable to freely copy such inventions, they feel, may hinder local firms' efforts to enhance their own technological capacity and become more innovative in the future.

Doubts cast on IPR regime

In 2001, the UK government established a Commission on Intellectual Property Rights to look at how IPRs might work better for poor people and developing countries. The Commission's report "Integrating intellectual property rights and development policy" was published in September 2002, and covers the following areas: intellectual property and development; health; agriculture and genetic resources; traditional knowledge, access and benefit sharing and geographical indications; copyright, software and the Internet; and patent reform. The document contains some quite far-reaching recommendations directed at the global IPR system including the institutions within it (such as the WTO and the World Intellectual Property Organisation), and national IPR policy-making.

Overall, the Commission expresses serious doubts that the international IPR regime in its present form, and current processes to further strengthen IPR protection, are in the interests of the poor. It also considers that the TRIPS agreement imposes onerous costs on most developing countries. The Commission presents well-documented historical evidence to support the view that at certain stages of development, weak levels of IPR protection are more likely to stimulate economic development and poverty alleviation than strong levels. Present-day empirical data is, as the Commission reveals, somewhat lacking. But what there is, points to the same conclusion.

Due to their different scientific and technological capacities and social and economic structures, an optimal IPR system is bound to vary widely from one developing country to another. For example, those countries with relatively advanced scientific and technological capacities like India and China may well benefit from high levels of IPR protection in some areas, whereas the least-developed countries almost certainly will not.

Among the specific recommendations relating to particularly controversial matters are that developing countries should establish workable laws and procedures to allow them to use compulsory licensing in order to improve access to urgently needed medicines. As for the patenting of life, the Commission recommends that developing countries should not provide patent protection for plants and animals, and should be permitted to develop sui generis systems for plant varieties that suit their agricultural systems. With respect to traditional knowledge and genetic resources, the Commission recommends that all countries should require patent applications to disclose the geographical source of genetic resources from which the invention is derived.

Calls to review TRIPS

The case against TRIPS is currently being promoted by several public interest groups including Oxfam, Med"cins sans Fronti"res, and Third World Network, which have particularly highlighted agricultural and public health issues. As a result, there is currently strong pressure coming from some of these groups " together with a number of developing country governments " for TRIPS to be revised.

In recent years several developing countries have indicated an interest in lowering some of the agreed standards. For example, some African countries such as Kenya have proposed to the WTO that both the ability to patent plants and animals (which is optional at present, although allowed in the United States, Europe and Japan) and micro-organisms (which is obligatory) be prohibited. In addition, a number of Latin American countries " including Peru and Bolivia " have proposed that the WTO establish new IPR regulations aimed at protecting traditional knowledge to further their specific development priorities.
Debate Round No. 2


Unfortunately, my opponent's schedule was too busy, and as such, he was unable to post an argument pertaining to our resolution. He resorted to copying from an external source which did not directly address the motion or my arguments. As such, I will not respond to his post, and instead await eagerly his arguments in the next round. However, I will take this opportunity to post my two other contentions.

C5) TRIPS further perpetrates unfairness in the agriculture industry.
TRIPS renders obligatory the provision of patents not only for medicines, but also for micro-organisms, and non-biological and microbiological processes for the production of plants or animals, as well as plant varieties. (7) This includes genes, microorganisms, cell lines and genomes. (1) As a result, chemical companies have purchased seed and biotechnology companies, and become life science companies. For example, Monsanto, a corporation that admits its involvement in drafting TRIPS, now owns Calgene, Holden and Asgrow, Cargill Seeds, Agracetus, DeKalb, Delta and Pine Land and Seminis. Other corporations, including Novartis (which, incidentally, was involved in the medicine-related lawsuits against both South Africa and India) and Aventis, have also done this. (2) However, this opens a can of worms, and further worsens injustice in the agriculture industry.

There are several ways in this unfortunate situation manifests itself in developing nations. The first is biopiracy. TRIPS encourages biopiracy, which means indigenous knowledge and biodiversity from developing nations are stolen by multinationals which patent the genes and create a monopoly on these genes. As such, biological resources which originate from developing nations can no longer be used by small producers there, depriving them of their ability to sustain their own lives. For instance, through TRIPS, the US forced India to change patent laws, which allowed firms engaging in biodiversity to enjoy monopoly power in India. The Indian variety of Nap Hal wheat, for example, was patented by Monsanto before a court decision revoked the patent in 2004. Karela, jamun and brinjal also have anti-diabetic properties which were patented by the US, but these are in fact common everyday knowledge in the parts of India where they originate. These are not individual cases. Neem, pepper, haldi, harar, mustar, amla, bahera, etc., are just examples of the Indian crops that have fallen victim to this injustice. Systemetic biopiracy caused by TRIPS results in a flow of innovation from developing countries to developed ones, which then proceed to patent and protect such stolen inventions for monopoly gain. This is unfair to developing countries. (2)

Moreover, the practice of seed saving, used by some 70% of the farmers in India, has become illegal under TRIPS. Once the farmers have tried using GMO seeds, subsequent seeds must be bought from multinational agricultural companies at lofty prices. In fact, even their non-GMO crops are hit because they will be contaminated by their GMO crops, and consequently contain GMO elements. Therefore, TRIPS patents allow seed corporations to have control over seeds and therefore the production of the entire farm (including GMO and originally non-GMO crops). Farmers unable to afford the expensive seeds will be unable to produce. As of 2006, this has pushed 150,000 farmers in India to suicide. Cotton seeds in India are a notorious example of this. 95% of these seeds are controlled by Monsanto. (6) Even farmers in developed nations are not free from this misery: Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer, learnt this the hard way. (7) This is extremely unfair to farmers since international seed companies can reap profits from GMO seeds by setting extremely unfairly high prices (see my monopoly graphs in C1, except this time the CS belongs to the small produces rather than the consumers). Combined with biopiracy (which I've mentioned above), this phenomenon can even extend from GMOs to conventional crops. (6)

C6) Medical patents disincentivise the invention and production of drugs for diseases of poverty
Although patents may incentivise the production of drugs for patients in developed countries, the same cannot be said of those of developing countries. Citizens of poor countries often suffer from what is known as 'diseases of poverty', diseases which are either native to developing countries and unlikely to be found in developed ones, or which are rare in developed countries because of factors like hygiene and vaccination. Tropical diseases are examples of these. However, between 1975 and 1997, 1,233 drugs were licensed, of which only four were aimed at tropical diseases, which is extremely disproportionate. (3) The reason is that patent medicines cannot be afforded by the poor, so inventing medicine to illnesses that primarily infect the poor is not profitable.

Even if medicines have been developed, patent protection does little to incentivise the production of them. After all, if the poor cannot afford to buy expensive patent medicine, why produce them? This was, at one point, the situation of Vaniqa, which was used to treat sleeping sickness, a serious African illness causing madness and death. Aventis, which held the patent to the drug, was unwilling to mass-produce it because it was not profitable. Only when the drug was later discovered to be helpful in reducing facial hair growth - for patients of developed countries! - did mass production resume, and even so, intervention by the World Health Organisation and Medecins sans frontières was needed to ensure that the sleeping sickness version would be made and sold to Africa. (4)

As there is less medicine available to treat diseases of poverty, we can conclude that the poor - people with worse hygiene, less vaccinations and thus a higher chance of contracting illnesses - have less access to the rich, which already have better health and a lower chance of contracting diseases. This is satisfies the Inverse Care Law, and it is unfair as access to medical care is inversely related to needs. (5)



Naweedyosofi forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Unfortunately, my opponent was forced to forfeit another round and, as such, unable to present arguments to negate the resolution.

I shall only take advantage of this opportunity to conclude my case.

The TRIPS agreement creates a monopoly over drug markets and increases monopoly profit at the expense of consumer surplus. The agreement was drafted by developed countries and developing ones had no say. The economies of developed countries gain from it, but not those of the developing. Medication is inaccessible to the poor, and by extension, there is little incentive to produce or invent drugs to cure diseases of poverty. Moreover, biopiracy and the criminalisation of seed-saving have had numerous nefarious impacts on the agricultural industries of developing countries. All these are extremely unfair to the nations where medical and alimentary needs are difficult to satisfy in the first place.

The TRIPS agreement is extremely unfair, and the motion must stand. I thank my opponent for accepting the debate, although regrettably he could not finish it. To the voters, thank you for reading and vote Pro!


I'm sure this was a great debate to learn many things from it. Unfortunately i was unable to post my arguments due to the strict time schedule and i would like to apologize for it. Although my opponent was very good on his arguments. I wish i was able to debate this wonderful topic. By the way, i wish my opponent best of luck. He was very well prepared for this debate.
Please vote to my opponent (Pro) because he deserve it!

I would like to thank my opponent for starting this debate meanwhile i would regret for missing my argument.

Thanking you all!
Debate Round No. 4
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Naweedyosofi 2 years ago
Yeah sure, and congrats for your win :)
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 2 years ago
@tejas: Thanks!
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 2 years ago
@Naweedyosofi: It's OK, RL issues get in the way all the time. Maybe we could have a rematch sometime :)
Posted by Naweedyosofi 2 years ago
Its Ok ;)
sorry that i also could not post what i wanted, due to a strict time with my schedule.
Inshallah i will cover and catch it up in the next round.
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 2 years ago
Ignore the AR bit for 1st degree PD. Another mistake from me...
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 2 years ago
Oh, it's OK. ;) We've all been through busy times.
Posted by Naweedyosofi 2 years ago
I am very busy these days, and i could not post it early, i hope you are not impatient .
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 2 years ago
Correction: in the third pic, it should be this is the whole CS.
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 2 years ago
Thanks to the character limit, I couldn't even put my last two contentions up, lol. Boy do I hate char limits.
Posted by Naweedyosofi 2 years ago
Ok no problem take ur time and good luck
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by tejretics 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Con forfeited R3 and conceded the debate in R4. Thus, conduct and arguments to Pro. As always, happy to clarify this RFD.