As closed-door talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement resume in Singapore this week, international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières is calling on Australia and negotiating countries to reject rules that threaten to dismantle internationally agreed public health safeguards and restrict access to medicines in developing countries.
The TPP negotiations, which currently involve eleven Asia-Pacific countries, are being conducted in secret, but leaked texts reveal the most aggressive intellectual property (IP) measures ever suggested in a trade deal with developing countries. The U.S. proposals threaten to roll back internationally-agreed public health safeguards and would put in place far-reaching monopoly protections that keep medicine prices high and out of the reach of millions in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Too many people already die needlessly because the medicines they need are too expensive or do not exist, and we cannot stand by as the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens to further restrict access to medicines in developing countries,” said Dr. Unni Karunakara, International President of Médecins Sans Frontières. “We are gravely concerned about countries like Thailand, where we started treating HIV/AIDS more than a decade ago and then transitioned our programs to local authorities with the confidence that they would be able to continue providing lifesaving treatments. Now Thailand is on the cusp of joining a dangerous deal that could jeopardise its ability to maintain, let alone scale up, vital, life-saving health programs for its people.”
Furthermore, U.S. negotiators have said the TPP will be a template for its future trade agreements across the globe, setting a damaging precedent. Despite widespread opposition to its current proposals, including from other negotiating countries, the U.S. has failed to put forth any alternative text, essentially running out the clock so countries may be forced to accept its original demands in order to meet the announced October 2013 deadline.
The proposed IP rules would grant the pharmaceutical industry a wide-ranging set of legal mechanisms designed to prolong monopoly protection for medicines and delay the availability of more affordable generic versions. These demands represent a complete repudiation of the U.S. government’s own 2007 bipartisan trade policy, which promised to scale back some of the harshest IP provisions in trade deals with developing countries.