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Global negotiations to allow poor nations to buy cheap drugs have collapsed following the United States' objections to such a deal on the grounds that it would undermine patent rights held by US-based pharmaceutical companies.

The agreement would have allowed drug countries in the developing world to export generic versions of patented drugs in times of public health crisis to nations too poor to make the medicine themselves.

The principle behind such a deal was agreed at World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks a year ago. But discussions at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, broke up early on Saturday after US negotiators said the agreement covered too many diseases.

The United States and other wealthy countries wanted such limit the diseases covered by the deal to AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other serious infectious diseases. But developing countries such as Brazil, China and India argued that governments should have the right to determine which diseases constitute public health crises.

Talks have now been rescheduled for February. The United States has promised that in the meantime it will not take any country to court for breaking current trade rules by exporting cheap medicine to poor countries.

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