[Ip-health] Joint PR : EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement: Not at the expense of access to medicines

Leila Bodeux leb at oxfamsol.be
Wed Sep 18 02:16:26 PDT 2013


*JOINT PRESS RELEASE*, 18 September 2013

Act Up-Paris, Oxfam International, Health Action International and 
Action against AIDS Germany

*EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement: Not at the expense of access to 

Following the official launch of the negotiations for a Free Trade 
Agreement (FTA) between the EU and the Kingdom of Thailand in March 
2013, Thai officials and EU negotiators are meeting this week (16-20 
September) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to conduct a second round of 
negotiation of a trade agreement that both parties want to achieve in as 
little as 18 months.

This week, around 5 000 health, consumer, and farming activists from 
various Thai civil society networks are taking part in a campaign to 
defend access to public goods under this FTA. They are organizing a wide 
range of activities such as demonstrations, press conference and meeting 
with the EU delegation.

Thai health activists want to remind Thai and EU negotiators that the 
FTA should not include Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) that go 
beyond the already stringent WTO obligations (TRIPS agreement). Such 
provisions would only reinforce monopolies of multinational 
pharmaceutical companies, increase the price of medicines and create new 
access barriers to cheap generic medicines.

They also call on negotiators not to include investment provisions that 
would allow investors (eg. pharmaceutical companies) to legally 
challenge the Thai government in secretive arbitration panels for any 
measures the government may take to curtail, override or strike down 
patents and other forms of IP protection on public health grounds, even 
if it is allowed to take such measures under TRIPS and the Doha 


Act Up-Paris, Oxfam International, Health Action International and 
Action against AIDS Germany strongly support Thai civil society. EU 
negotiators should take into consideration the importance of access to 
cheap and good quality generic medicines for patients in Thailand when 
negotiating this trade deal. Since 2002, a system of universal health 
coverage exists in Thailand which covers 99% of the population. The 
production and availability of affordable and quality generic medicines 
is a key element to sustain this universal coverage.

“We fear that should TRIPS+ measures or dangerous investment provisions 
be included in the Thailand-EU FTA, the ability of the Thai government 
to keep on running the current health system and to provide its citizens 
with the medicines they need might be hampered”, says Leïla Bodeux from 
Oxfam International.

"The EU's position on intellectual property protection in previous FTAs, 
including the earlier failed negotiations between the EU and ASEAN, 
suggests that the EU will push for tough IPRs in this FTA and will grant 
powers to investors, including the pharmaceutical industry, that could 
open for the door to abuses that jeopardize the Thailand government’s 
efforts to provide health care for all", says Tessel Mellema from HAI.

“The EU should refrain from demanding IP provisions that go beyond TRIPS 
as well as harmful investment provisions. In supporting the commercial 
interests of its pharmaceutical industry, the EU is damaging the 
opportunities for innovation and access to medicines in Thailand”, says 
Celine Grillon from Act Up-Paris.

“There is no human right to the realization of commercial interests, but 
there is a universal right to health! The EU delegates must have this in 
mind, when negotiating terms of the trade agreement with Thailand and 
other countries”, says Astrid Berner-Rodoreda from Action against AIDS 

_For more information, please contact:_

·Act Up-Paris (France) : Céline Grillon, international at actupparis.org 
<mailto:international at actupparis.org>, + 33 6 50 01 39 10

·Health Action International (HAI): Tessel Mellema, tessel at haieurope.org 
<mailto:tessel at haieurope.org>, +31 62 468 67 71 3684

·Oxfam International: Leïla Bodeux, leb at oxfamsol.be 
<mailto:leb at oxfamsol.be>, +32 485 94 82 89

·Action against AIDS Germany / Aktionsbündnis gegen AIDS: Marco Alves, 
alves at aids-kampagne.de <mailto:alves at aids-kampagne.de>, +49 30 275 824 03

_Notes to editor:_

Overreaching IP protection and enforcement restricts and delays 
legitimate competition from generic manufacturers, thereby sustaining 
market monopolies, high monopoly prices, and significantly affecting 
access to affordable treatment. Stringent TRIPS-plus intellectual 
property (IP) provisions in earlier negotiated FTAs have reduced the 
availability of generic medicines, leading to an increase in medicines 
prices[i] <#_edn1>.

Public health NGOs, the European Parliament, UNAIDS, the UN Development 
Programme, the UK Commission on Intellectual Property Rights and 
Development Policy, the UN Commission on HIV/AIDS and the Law, 
international IP academics, and also the World Health Organization (WHO) 
have recognized the link between TRIPS-plus IP provisions that 
disproportionately favour rights-holders, and poor access to medicines.

A compulsory license is a TRIPS agreement’s safeguard that countries are 
allowed to issue to override a drug patent and to enable production or 
importation of a generic medicines. It allows countries to slash down 
drastically the price of live saving drugs that they could not otherwise 
provide to their populations. Since 2007, Thailand has issues several 
compulsory licenses on HIV/AIDS treatment as well as several cancer and 
heart disease medicines. This move put Thailand in the orbit of big 
pharmaceutical groups that felt threatened by that sort of practices. 
The World Bank had estimated in 2006 that if Thailand uses compulsory 
licensing to reduce the cost of second-line antiretroviral therapy to 
treat people living with HIV/AIDS by 90%, the government would reduce 
its future budgetary obligations by US$3.2 billion discounted to 
2025.[ii] <#_edn2>It is therefore key that the future FTA will not 
impede Thailand to issue compulsory licenses to respond to health needs 
when necessary.

According to our information, the EU will probably include an 
investor-state dispute provisions in this FTA. Under such mechanism 
pharmaceutical companies can claim that the government's health 
regulations undermine enjoyment of their IP-related "investments". This 
could lead pharmaceutical companies to sue the government of Thailand in 
front of international arbitration panels to overrule measures to 
promote access to medicines, for example the issuance of compulsory 

The US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Co. challenges the Canadian 
government under Chapter 11 of the North American free trade agreement 
(NAFTA) following a Canadian court decision to revoke the company’s 
patent for the drug Strattera, which is used to treat attention-deficit 
disorder. The drug company is now seeking $500 million in compensation.


[i] <#_ednref1>All costs, no benefits: How TRIPS - plus intellectual 
property rules in the US-Jordan FTA affect access to medicines, Oxfam 
International (2007), 
A Trade Agreement’s Impact on Access to Drugs’ (2010), Ellen R. Shaffer 
and Joseph E. Brenner, CPATH, www.healthaffairs.org 
<http://www.healthaffairs.org>; IFARMA. Impact of the EU Andean Trade 
Agreements on Access to Medicines in Peru. November 2009. HAI Europe. 

[ii] <#_ednref2>‘The Economics of Effective AIDS Treatment’, Conference 
Edition, World Bank, Washington, 2006



Leïla Bodeux
Policy Officer Essential Services

Rue des Quatre-vents, 60
1080 Bruxelles - Belgique
Tel: + 32 2 501 67 56
Email:leb at oxfamsol.be  

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