[Ip-health] Australia, Chile and New Zealand reply to UN Rapporteur for Right to Health on TPP complaints

Thirukumaran Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Oct 1 02:37:38 PDT 2012

KEI has recently learned that 6 of 9 countries ignored a UN Special Rapporteur request to respond to the March 22, 2011 complaint regarding the TPP. We are also disappointed in the comments from the three that did respond. The UN process for dealing with such complaints is somewhat bureaucratic and secretive. Among the three countries that did respond, Australia, Chile and New Zealand, all defended the secrecy of the TPP negotiating text and asserted that the TPP would not violate the right to health. Excerpts from the three countries that did respond follow, but note always that six countries including the United States did not respond, and that the United States was in fact the primary target of the complaint.

Please see the following link to view the responses of Australia, Chile and New Zealand to the Special Rapporteur's communique. 



The notion that secret negotiations are the norm is of course not true in terms of multilateral negotiations on intellectual property rights at WIPO or the WHO, or even WTO negotiations on intellectual property rights issues, but it is unfortunately the tradition in bilateral and regional trade agreements. The assertion by Australia, Chile and New Zealand that they do not or will not support barriers to access to medicine can be seen as lacking candor, given the nature of the proposals tabled by the United States on patents and drug pricing, and the likelihood of harmful measures being included in the final agreement, giving U.S. objectives and power in the negotiations.

Comment by KEI

The UN's Special Rapporteur Anand Grover asked nine countries to respond to specific allegations that the TPP would undermine the right to the highest standard of health. Only three governments bothered to respond, each defending the secrecy of the negotiations and lying about or minimizing the expected impact of the negotiation on access to medicines. Apparently the United States -- the leading target of the complaint and the most aggressive proponent of of high drug prices -- did not respond to Grover's July 19, 2011 letter. In 2009, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Apparently these "extraordinary efforts" do not extend to engagement with the UN's Special Rapporteur for the right to health on a topic that concerns life and death issues for millions of persons.

The responses by Australia and New Zealand on the issue of secrecy demonstrate how little each government respects its own citizens. When the Australian Government says it is "not convinced that publicly releasing contested text would assist informed public debate on the issues" you have to wonder how they arrive at this conclusion. Can you have an "informed public debate" on text that no one can see? New Zealand's statement that "in smaller trade negotiations whether bilateral or plurilateral . . . .not to release texts until the signature . . . is consistent with international practice" begs the question of whether or not the TPP can be considered one of the "smaller trade negotiations," and whether or not such secrecy is warranted at all for any trade agreement, or for every chapter and every paragraph in the TPP. As a practical matter, if Australia and New Zealand won't go on the record calling for the disclosure of the text, the Obama Administration will find it easy to maintain its policy of asymmetric access between big business and the public. We note that in the ACTA negotiations the European Parlliament forced the parties to disclose a copy of the negotiating text, and the Bush Administration published the entire text of the FTAA. Corporate lobbyists are always well informed, but public disclosure is done when governments recognize the legitimacy and value of an informed public.

James Love, Knowledge Ecology International, 27 September 2012.


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

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