[Ip-health] Comments on NAFTA Renegotiation by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops

Fran Quigley fwquigley at gmail.com
Tue Jun 13 18:15:50 PDT 2017

In formal comments submitted to the USTR this week, a strong statement urging that a renegotiated NAFTA avoid becoming another TRIPS-Plus agreement:


June 12, 2017  

 Comments by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 




Trade agreements have human consequences and moral dimensions; they must be evaluated with reference to the effects that they have on the people of both developing as well as developed countries . . .


As we stated in a recent letter to Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer, the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed deep reservations about the possible expansion of intellectual property rights as regards pharmaceuticals-access in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). It is imperative that the NAFTA renegotiation process does not introduce new limitations on the right of sovereign nations to employ national health flexibilities beyond the provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of 1994, an agreement that already applies to NAFTA member-states.  In particular, an expansion of NAFTA’s five-year market exclusivity for pharmaceuticals as proposed in TPP would jeopardize the health of millions as they struggle to support their families . . .


Intellectual Property Rights. We are also concerned about intellectual property rights provisions regarding pharmaceuticals and agriculture. The Church locates intellectual property rights within the broader framework of the common good and believes these rights should be balanced with the needs of the poor for access to medicines and to food.  


Dispute Resolution Mechanisms. We question the merits of requiring sovereign parties to international treaties to agree to binding international arbitration as the forum for dispute resolution. Such a path may lead to unfair advantages for commercial interests willing to exploit the rules of the arbitral system and may result in the weakening of important environmental, labor, and human rights standards.   


Participation. It is critical the people have a voice in decisions that touch their lives. Human dignity demands transparency and the right of people to participate in decisions that impact them. 


As pastors and teachers in a global Church, our experience of the impact of trade and other aspects of economic integration, their possibilities and perils, is both broad and deep. We stand ready to work with you to ensure that policies are informed by these criteria.  



Fran Quigley

PFAM: People of Faith for Access to Medicines, www.pfamrx.org <http://www.pfamrx.org/> , (317) 750-4891

Also: Clinical Professor, Health  <http://mckinneylaw.iu.edu/faculty-staff/profile.cfm?Id=440> & Human Rights Clinic, Indiana University McKinney School of Law




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