[Ip-health] EU's Free Trade Agreements threaten MDG progress

Kajal Bhardwaj k0b0 at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 29 00:52:06 PDT 2010

Apologies if youve already seen this. 

The European Union’s Free Trade Agreements threaten MDG progress
People living with HIV call out EU hypocrisy on Millennium Development Goals as 
it forces its trade agreements on developing countries, seizes generic drugs and 
negotiates ACTA 

28 September 2010, New Delhi and Bangkok:With the conclusion of theMDG Summit 
last week in New York,people living with HIV across Asia are calling out the 
European Union’s hypocrisy on claims that it supports the MDGs when it is 
pursuing aggressive trade policies that threaten worldwide access to medicines. 
The EU is pushing greater intellectual property protection or monopolies on 
medicines that prevent the production, export or import of safe, effective and 
affordable generic versions of expensive medicines.
A recently released study estimates that 80% of the worlds AIDS drugs come from 
India. The ‘MDG Outcome Document’ adopted by consensus last week and is meant to 
represent the commitment of the United Nations General Assembly to the 
fulfilment of the MDGs calls for “planning for long-term sustainability, 
including addressing the expected increase in demand for second and third line 
drug regimens to treat HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.” (para 76e) It is these 
newer medicines that will not be available from generic companies if the EU has 
its way in free trade agreement negotiations with India. The EU is demanding 
newer monopolies on medicines, longer patent terms and enforcement measures for 
intellectual property. The threat comes not just from the EU-India FTA as the EU 
is currently negotiating or planning to negotiate free trade agreements across 
Latin America, Africa and Asia. 

“Is our memory so short that we have forgotten the situation we were in barely 
10 years ago? None of us could get effective HIV treatment because of the 
stranglehold multinational companies had on medicines. Generic medicines not 
only brought down prices but led to government programmes across the developing 
world to provide life-long treatment,” said Loon Gangte of the Delhi Network of 
Positive People (DNP+). “Now the EU wants to shut down generic production in 
India through its free trade agreement and send us back in time – when we 
watched helplessly as our colleagues, friends and families struggled with 
ill-health and death because some big company and its government decided to put 
profits before people” he said. 

Groups watching the negotiation of the final MDG Outcome Document were alarmed 
to see the EU and the US protesting the inclusion of language proposed by 
developing countries to ensure access to medicines.  According to Chee Yoke 
Ling, director of Third World Network, developing countries had proposed a 
paragraph calling on developed countries "to refrain from adopting any measures 
or restrictions related to trade and transit that affect the access by 
developing countries to medicines, especially generic medicines, and medical 
equipment." This was rejected by the EU and US. 

This language was proposed in light of the EU’s seizure of generic medicines on 
their way from India to Latin America and Africa. Despite worldwide outrage at 
the seizures, the EU refuses to amend the law that allowed the seizures and is 
pushing for similar laws in developing countries through its trade agreements. 
The rejection of this language also comes at a time when the EU along with the 
US and Japan are secretly negotiating a new trade agreement known as the 
Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement or ACTA. Leaked texts of ACTA indicate that 
a significant push by these countries to increase the enforcement of 
intellectual property rights across the globe. 

These bilateral agreements and ACTA take intellectual property protection well 
beyond what countries agreed to when they signed the Agreement on Trade Related 
Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS. Developing and least developed countries 
are routinely told that they can use so-called TRIPS flexibilities to interpret 
their obligations under TRIPS to promote access to medicines. 

The only reference to the use of TRIPS flexibilities in the MDG document in para 
78(t) has been adapted from the UNGASS Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS four 
years ago. “That was yet another Declaration of commitment by the UN General 
Assembly in 2006 re-affirming the right of all countries to use these TRIPS 
flexibilities,” said Shiba Phurailatpam of the Asia Pacific Network of people 
living with HIV/AIDS (APN+). “In 2007 and 2008 when Thailand used these TRIPS 
flexibilities to issue compulsory licences for medicines for HIV, heart disease 
and cancer, they faced a vicious backlash from developed countries. The actions 
of developed countries show that these are just empty words in international 
documents” he said. 

In fact, the MDG Outcome Document represents an abdication of all responsibility 
of developed countries in such actions and in pushing trade agreements that 
threaten access to medicines. Thus, according to the document, “It is for each 
Government to evaluate the trade-off between the benefits of accepting 
international rules and commitments and the constraints posed by the loss of 
policy space.” (para 37) Policy space often given up by developing and least 
developed countries relates to their ability to produce, import or export 
generic medicines. The MDG document completely ignores the unequal balance of 
power between developed and developing countries and places no responsibility on 
developed countries not to push trade laws and policies that hamper access to 

Access to medicines has been identified in the MDG Outcome Document as essential 
to the achievement of the goals on child mortality, HIV, malaria, tuberculosis 
and for the proper functioning and strengthening of health systems. Yet it fails 
to address the causes for the gap in access to affordable medicines. Even as 
concerns increase that countries are shying away from commitments to fully fund 
the achievement of the MDGs grows, the already restricted ability of countries 
to provide access to generic medicines either by producing these themselves or 
importing them is in danger of being traded away under growing pressure from 
developed countries – in particular, the European Union. 

People living with HIV are demanding that the EU and India remove all TRIPS-plus 
provisions from their FTA discussions in Delhi next week if they are serious 
about their MDG commitments.

For more information, contact
Shiba Phurailatpam, Asia Pacific Network of people living with HIV/AIDS (APN+)
Tel: +66-866000738
Loon Gangte, Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+)
Tel: +91-9871029514


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