[Ip-health] new OSF blog post on EU-India FTA: interview with Loon Gangte
etorreele at sorosny.org
Tue Feb 22 07:51:31 PST 2011
The EU-India Free Trade Agreement: An Interview with Loon Gangte
February 22, 2011 | by Azadeh Momenghalibaf
In a previous blog post, Els Torreele highlighted the potential negative
implications of the proposed EU-India Free Trade Agreement
edicines/> (FTA) on access to life-saving medicines for people in the
developing world. But what does this agreement really mean for patients
who depend on these medicines?
Meet Loon Gangte of the Delhi Network of Positive People, an Indian
activist living with HIV and hepatitis C, an inspiring leader for people
living with HIV globally, and a dear friend. I had the opportunity to
interview him sometime in between the endless meetings and phone calls
he was having with other activists to mobilize voices against this FTA.
What does the EU-India Free Trade Agreement mean for you and other
people living with HIV?
People look at this issue in many ways, but for me, and for people
living with HIV, we see this FTA as a matter of life and death. We know
how our lives were before generic drugs were available. I was diagnosed
in 1997 and there were no medicines available at that time. Life was
difficult then. I think about all the friends I lost unnecessarily
because they didn't have access to treatment. Only the rich countries
and rich people could afford treatment. It was survival of the richest.
If this FTA goes through, with provisions to strengthen intellectual
property protections like data exclusivity as part of the deal, then we
will be going back to the pre-2000 era, and most of us will not be able
to afford new treatments and neither will our governments. Eventually we
will die. We see the European Union as trying to cut our lifeline.
The EU continues to argue that the proposed agreement will not have a
negative impact on India's ability to produce generic drugs. What is
your response to that?
Who are they trying to fool?! On the one hand they say they are
committed to access to treatment and that they won't do anything to
block generic production in India, but on the other hand, they push for
data exclusivity. We received a letter from the EU explaining how data
exclusivity is good for us because it will lead to greater innovation.
But we have already seen in other developing countries that this is not
true, and that strengthening the patent system and data exclusivity
specifically does not promote innovation, and prevents the availability
of generics [see U.S.-Jordan FTA
<http://www.oxfam.org/en/policy/bp102_jordan_us_fta> and Central
America Free Trade Agreement
Those who will suffer are people like us who rely on generic drugs to
live. For the pharmaceutical industry, data exclusivity is even better
than pushing for patent extension and will lead to greater monopoly.
How about the World Health Organization or funders of HIV drugs like the
Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria? Are they concerned too?
The director of the Global Fund has written to the Indian delegation and
the WHO has written a position statement on the issue. So yes, they
share our concern. But in practice, they are simply being careful with
the EU because those countries are their big donors and it's too
What have you and civil society groups been doing to try and fight this
Overall, the FTA is being negotiated behind closed doors between trade
diplomats with no parliamentarians or civil society in the room to
represent our concerns. We've staged many protests in India, and some of
us were arrested. There have been protests all over the world because
this FTA will impact everyone living with HIV in developing countries.
Most of the developing world is dependent on India for affordable
We felt really optimistic when we managed to get the Ministry of Health
and the Ministry of Commerce & Industry on our side, but then we
discovered over Christmas that the prime minister's office has been
favour-with-pmo/736413/0> and will overrule all of his cabinet
ministers on this decision and wants to finalize the deal. I'm feeling
really discouraged now...anything can happen. We will be holding a
global day of action against the EU-India FTA on March 2, and we want
everyone to take part!
Honestly, it's like an ant fighting an elephant. We are one of the
weakest and poorest groups and they (the EU and the pharmaceutical
industry) are among the richest and strongest. The EU and the U.S. are
pushing the interests of international pharmaceutical companies. They
are listening to the pharma lobbyists. They don't care if we live or
But we will fight tooth and nail! We are simply trying to save our lives
and we have nothing to lose. If this FTA goes through then we are
already dead. We have come too far and have seen too many people die to
go back to the days without affordable treatment. We will fight until
For people living with HIV, this is a matter of life and death. But for
those of us in the West who may feel far removed from this battle, we
need to ask ourselves whether it is right that trade deals with the
potential to impact the health of millions of people in developing
countries should be decided behind closed doors? Or whether an
agreement that is hailed by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical
Industries and Associations as "ambitious" and "a significant
ma-fully-supports-an-ambitious-euindia-fta.html> will indeed safeguard
the life and health of the poor?
To keep up to date on the latest developments on this vital trade deal,
please visit the blog Don't Trade Our Lives Away
<http://donttradeourlivesaway.wordpress.com/> and the Stop the EU-India
Free Trade Agreement Facebook page
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