238. The representative of South Africa emphasized that the purpose of the special session should be to address issues related to TRIPS, patents and access to medicines. During the informal meeting that had preceded the present formal session, there had been widespread support for such a discussion, for which he which to express his gratitude. Issues of access to affordable drugs and patents were not new to the WTO and had already formed part of proposals made in the preparations for the Seattle Ministerial Conference in 1999. At that time, many developing countries, including the African Group, had made a link to the list of essential drugs of the WHO. The African Group's proposal was based on an assessment of where the patent regimes that had been newly established under the TRIPS Agreement were likely to have a negative impact. Developments in the global economy, especially as they related to health, had confirmed that this assessment was correct and clarification was necessary to prevent such negative impacts. Moreover, the situation regarding health and access to drugs was worsening in many developing countries, especially in Africa. There were increasing efforts by governments, the private sector and intergovernmental organizations to address the problems involved and the international community was well disposed to address the issues decisively. Thus, the environment was now conducive and the time ripe. The WTO was uniquely placed to make a contribution in seeking solutions, all the more so in view of the up-coming Ministerial Conference in Doha. He hoped that Members' support could be generated for taking appropriate decisions in areas where the WTO's contribution was likely to be more meaningful.