By Rupali Mukherjee, The Times of India | June 14, 2016
MUMBAI: Health and patient organisations have raised concerns about the inclusion of “harmful” intellectual property proposals in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal that could potentially raise treatment costs by creating new forms of monopolies and delaying the entry of affordable generics in the market. This is in the wake of 13th round of negotiations which began this week as negotiators from 16 countries gathered in Auckland to discuss the agreement.If the intellectual property provisions proposed by Japan and South Korea are accepted, access to essential medicines will be restricted for millions of people across Asia and the world, who rely on life-saving affordable generics made in India, says a statement from Medecins Sans Frontieres, adding these rules should be removed from the draft.
RCEP is a regional trade agreement being negotiated between the 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. RCEP countries are home to nearly 50% of the world’s population, including the most impoverished, vulnerable and marginalised communities living in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Leena Menghaney, MSF Access Campaign, India, says, “Unless negotiators remove harmful provisions from RCEP, this trade deal is set to follow the dangerous path of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which is recognised globally as the worst trade deal ever for access to medicines.
We appeal to India’s intellectual property negotiators in particular to stand by the promise made last week by Union health minister JP Nadda at the UN high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS that ‘India is committed to maintaining TRIPS flexibilities to ensure access to affordable medicines.”
A leaked copy of the intellectual property text being discussed at the negotiations shows that Japan and South Korea have made several alarming proposals to include intellectual property rules that go beyond what international trade rules require, and that would undermine access to affordable generic medicines. MSF and other health organisations have been working to remove similarly harmful provisions from another trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which would restrict access to medicines for over 800 million people living in 12 Pacific Rim countries.
The leaked text reveals that the draft IP chapter proposes the premature adoption of intellectual property obligations by the region’s Least Developing Countries and thus, exposing a total disregard of the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable segment of the international community.
Belinda Townsend, Public Health Association of Australia says: “The RCEP trade deal threatens to undermine India and China’s role as major suppliers of generic medicines for people in the developing world, including both low-and middle-income countries such as Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines and Thailand.
Access to affordable generic medicines is vital for these countries to address public health challenges, including HIV, tuberculosis, viral hepatitis and non-communicable diseases, and to ensure that their governments can progressively realize the sustainable development goal of universal access to health care.
If RCEP imposes high levels of intellectual property protection, these countries could lose their capacity to increase access to affordable medicines for their populations.”