Trade Agreements

Scroll down to read the history of the trade agreement discussions in our region – in reverse chronological order.
In May 2020 the South Centre announced the publication of Policy Brief No. 76 entitled “Evolution of Data Exclusivity for Pharmaceuticals in Free Trade Agreements” by Wael Armouti, former Legal Affairs Director at Jordan Food and Drug Administration, Companies General Controller.
This document explains all the elements of Free trade agreements (FTAs) and their impacts on public health and access to essential medicines.
FTAs introduce higher intellectual property (IP) protection than those established in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS-plus provisions) that deprive the parties from benefits of the use of flexibilities found in the TRIPS Agreement to protect public health. One such TRIPS-plus requirement is that of data exclusivity. It establishes that the government should provide an exclusivity period for the test data developed by the originator company, on the grounds of an incentive rationale and considerations of fairness. The negative impact of the data exclusivity approach in developing countries means that the entry of cheap generic products is delayed, even under a compulsory license, which will affect access to affordable medicines. Countries that have already signed the FTAs can mitigate its effects on public health by limiting the scope of and providing exceptions to data exclusivity in national legislation.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)    – What is it?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is/was under negotiation and established a free trade area including Australia, the United States of America, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam.
This was a trade deal which could risk environmental laws, increase the cost of medicines (of particular significance in Vietnam) and enable corporations to sue governments in some circumstances. The secretive nature of these negotiations was extremely concerning; especially when so much is at stake.
WikiLeaks released the draft text of a chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement on 2011. The full agreement covered a number of areas, but the chapter published by WikiLeaks focuses on intellectual property rights, an area of law which has effects in areas as diverse as pharmaceuticals and civil liberties. The TPP also presented a threat to Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) with America’s pharmaceutical industry association flagging modifying programs for subsidising medicines as one of its key objectives.

USA pulled out of the talks when Trump assumed power – leaving the other 11 nations.  Agreement could still not be achieved so the talks were abandoned.  Then they were re-opened under pressure from some nations.

Knowledge Ecology International provides good background to the negotiations and the MSF letter to affected countries – Don’t trade away health –  can be seen here. To read the analyses and updates that have been published in HAIAP Newsletters click here.

October 30, 2018
The TPP-11 implementing legislation was passed by Australian Senate on October 18 and Australia’s ratification process will now proceed.
Following the majority Labor Caucus decision, Labor Senators voted with the Coalition government to pass the legislation, which was opposed by the Greens, Centre Alliance and most other crossbench Senators.
The huge union and community backlash from the Aftinet campaign against the Caucus decision pressured the ALP to make stronger commitments in foreshadowed legislation to ban harmful clauses like ISDS and removal of labour market testing from future trade deals, and to promise to attempt to change these provisions in the TPP-11.
If the ALP wins government (which could happen in elections held in May 2019 at the latest), it will be difficult to renegotiate TPP-11 provisions with other governments once the agreement is implemented. There will also be resistance from business and from the conservative trade establishment. We will monitor and hold the ALP and other parties to account on the TPP-11 and other trade agreements.
These polices reflect the influence of many years of Aftinet campaigning. We will continue campaigning for the ALP and other parties to be held accountable for their policies on the TPP-11 and on future trade agreements.

October 29, 2018 – Is the TPP worth it?
By Tom Chodor, Lowy Institute Interpreter
The long road back for the US to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership
The TPP, the biggest and most controversial trade deal in recent decades, has just passed the Senate in Australia with bipartisan support. Despite its speedy confirmation, the TPP warranted more serious scrutiny than it was afforded.
While for its proponents, the TPP is a “gold standard” “21st century agreement” expected to bring significant benefits, it’s far from clear whether these outweigh its many costs, from the impact of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) to the consequences of its intellectual property (IP) protections, especially given its miniscule income gains for Australia.
Read more

March 12, 2018 – TPP has risen from the dead.
It was signed on March 8.
New Zealand released the previously secret text of the agreement on February 21

See Martin Khor’s analysis in TWN News here

After years of campaigning against the dodgy deal and loss of support from the US, last year people power celebrated the death of the dirty deal. Since then, the Australian Government and other have been working tirelessly behind closed doors to resurrect the TPP, without the US.
Worst of all, the widely-condemned ISDS clause (Investor-state dispute settlement) — that gives multinational corporations power to sue governments when health and environment policies hurt their mega profits is still in it.
In just one case in Canada, the government outlawed toxic fuel additives but ISDS clauses allowed a US-based chemical company to sue, winning millions of dollars in compensation and overturning the decision.

But in order for the TPP to become law, governments need to pass legislation. In Australia, the Labor Party will need to vote yes in the Senate, which they haven’t agreed to do. Pressure on Labor is increasing to stop this dodgy deal from going ahead.   Labor has previously spoken out against ISDS clauses and last year said that they would not accept such clauses in new trade pacts — but instead of holding firm on their opposition, they’re considering this deal that will only benefit big corporations.
Even worse still, all the parts that were dumped from the original TPP for being too risky are on ice. Once the deal is signed, every last clause of the original TPP could be reintroduced if the member countries decide to do so.
Protests continue in all the countries that signed the deal.

October 13, 2017 – Talks reopen – 50 items to be re-negotiated
Last month another meeting between the eleven remaining TPP countries was held in Tokyo. The TPP-11 are hoping to reach general agreement by November 10.
The goal is for an early ratification of the TPP, in the hopes that the US will re-join the agreement. Although Australia, New Zealand and Japan are keen to minimise changes to the text, at least 50 items have been listed for renegotiation or suspension. Some TPP-11 governments only originally agreed to certain rules – like increased monopolies on medicines and copyright, and foreign investor rights to sue governments – in exchange for access to US markets.  They will not implement them without access to US markets.

June 1, 2017
Tom Price bought drug stocks. Then he pushed Pharma’s agenda in Australia.
by Robert Faturechi
ProPublica, June 1, 2017, 8 a.m.
Before he was named Trump’s health secretary, Price took a congressional trip to Australia and pressed officials to extend protections for drug companies in an international trade agreement.
In the spring before the 2016 presidential election, the Obama administration’s 12-nation trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, was still alive. Negotiators worked on details as Congress considered whether to ratify the pact.
The Australian government was getting in the way of one change demanded by U.S. pharmaceutical companies. Makers of cutting-edge biological drugs wanted to have data from their clinical trials protected from competitors for 12 years, as they are under U.S. law — not the roughly five years permitted under the TPP. Australian officials insisted that an extension would deprive consumers of cheaper alternatives for too long.
On April 5, 2016, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers arrived in Canberra, Australia’s capital, for meetings with government officials on a broad range of subjects. Among those on the routine congressional trip was Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia Republican who would go on to become President Trump’s secretary of health and human services.
Three weeks before the trip, Price had purchased up to $90,000 worth of pharmaceutical stocks — trades that would come under scrutiny after his nomination to Trump’s cabinet.
Read the whole article here

December 15, 2015  TPPA text revealed
The TPP Agreement and implications for access to essential medicines
After years of secret negotiations, the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has finally been released to the public. It will now be submitted to national processes for final signatures and ratification. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has explained the reasons for extreme concern about the inclusion of dangerous provisions that would dismantle public health safeguards enshrined in international law and restrict access to price-lowering generic medicines for millions of people.

Judit Rius Sanjuan, U.S. manager and legal policy advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign
MSF remains gravely concerned about the effects that the TPP trade deal will have on access to affordable medicines for millions of people, if it is enacted. The official release of the agreed TPP text confirms that the deal will further delay price-lowering generic competition by extending and strengthening monopoly market protections for pharmaceutical companies.
At a time when the high price of life-saving medicines and vaccines is increasingly recognized as a barrier to effective medical care, it is very concerning to see that the U.S. government and pharmaceutical companies have succeeded in locking in rules that will keep medicine prices high for longer and limit the tools that governments and civil society have to try to increase generic competition.
For example, if enacted, the TPP will not allow national regulatory authorities to use existing data that demonstrates a biological product’s safety and efficacy to authorize the sale of competitor products, even in the absence of patents.  The TPP would also force governments to extend existing patent monopolies beyond current 20-year terms at the request of pharmaceutical companies, and to redefine what type of medicine deserves a patent, including mandating the granting of new patents for modifications of existing medicines.
The provisions in the TPP text will not only raise the price of medicines and cause unnecessary suffering, but they also represent a complete departure from the U.S. government’s previous commitments to global health, including safeguards included in the U.S.’s 2007 ‘New Trade Policy.’
It is not too late to prevent further restrictions on access to affordable medicines in the TPP. As the text now goes to national legislatures for final approval, we urge all TPP governments to carefully consider whether the agreed TPP text reflects the direction they want to take on access to affordable medicines and promotion of biomedical innovation; if it does not, the TPP should be modified or rejected.’

September 29, 2015  from CHOICE
Time is running out for the TPP
After years of secrecy, TPP negotiators in the US have just created a ‘transparency officer’ – but with what could be the final meetings before the TPP is signed taking place this week in Atlanta, it’s way too little, way too late.
In Australia, our politicians aren’t even pretending to be transparent. Civil society groups have not seen the text of the TPP. We don’t know what’s in it, and it’s our last chance to find out before we get locked in to an agreement that could let international companies sue the government over laws that are in the public interest.
Our friends at OpenMedia are running an international campaign, putting pressure on Trade Ministers in all TPP countries to release the text before it’s too late. We think this is a great idea, and we want Australians to get on board so our voices are heard.
Join the international call to release the text
The TPP could be done and dusted in the next two weeks. We need to make it clear that we won’t accept a deal that has been negotiated behind closed doors. This is our last chance, and you can make a difference

September 21, 2015  SumOfUs (a movement of consumers, workers and shareholders to counterbalance the growing power of large corporations) reported a meeting in July in Maui to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. SumOfUs helped organize a major protest that succeeded in stopping the finalisation of the deal.

The negotiators are meeting AGAIN at the end of September in Atlanta. The details were kept top-secret until the last minute, so a major mobilization is planned at short notice.
This time in Atlanta, hundreds of corporate-backed negotiators are going to be fighting harder than ever before to finalize this secret, slimy deal — signing away access to medicine, affordable drugs, and even our democracy to corporate interests.
Read more at 

Activists have been busy in Canada too.  The Canadian campaign is reported here:

July 10 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
by  Common Dreams
Latest TPP Draft Benefits Big Pharma By Slashing Access to Generics 
With another round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations slated for the end of this month, the administration of President Barack Obama is aiming to force developing nations to adopt Big Pharma-friendly policies that are so bad for public health Obama himself has opposed them in the United States.

Citing leaked drafts of the agreement, as well as officials “familiar with the latest May 11 version,” Bloomberg journalist Peter Gosselin reported Friday that the deal is likely to include provisions that are almost certain to hike medicine costs while slashing access to generic drugs around the world: “At stake: hundreds of billions of dollars or more in extra costs that consumers may have to pay if the proposals make it harder for cheaper generics to win approval.”
In the negotiations, Obama is pursuing corporate-friendly policies he has rejected at home.
For example, “U.S. negotiators want to win makers of advanced drugs 12 years of exclusivity for data that might otherwise help competitors produce similar, cheaper versions,” wrote Gosselin. However, the Obama administration has sought, within the United States, to reduce that period to seven years.

But it doesn’t stop there. “Negotiators are also seeking language to make it easier for the big drugmakers to win ‘secondary’ patents to strengthen their control over products,” Gosselin continued. But domestically, the administration “has proposed changing U.S. law to make it harder to get such add-ons,” Gosselin explained. Obama is poised to not only foist these policies on other countries, but to trap the U.S. in them as well.
What’s more, said Gosselin, the United States “has negotiators pressing the region’s developing countries to sign onto a schedule for adopting the stronger rules, reversing previous exemptions to allow them easier access to cheap medicines.”
Obama is reportedly meeting opposition from countries involved in the negotiations. Meanwhile, global civil society and social movement groups have staged their strong opposition to the deal with protests, open letters, and organizing. However, resistance would likely be even greater if the contents of the talks were shared with the global public.  Read more here

June 16, 2015:  Community opposition defeats TPP Fast Track Bill in US Congress
Media Release June 13, 2015
“Despite procedural manoeuvres, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Fast Track Bill was defeated in the US House of Representatives overnight. This was a victory for the US community campaign against the secrecy of the TPP process and provisions of the TPP which threaten jobs, medicine prices, food safety and Internet freedom and would expose health and environmental protections to challenges from foreign investors, and lack meaningful and enforceable labour rights and environmental protections,”  said Dr Patricia Ranald, Coordinator of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET).

“You probably know by now that no normal Americans are allowed to see the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. It’s classified. Even members of Congress can only read it by going to secure reading rooms in the basement of the Capitol.  So I’d say it’s almost certain that most of the 219 representatives and 62 senators who’ve voted to “fast track” the TPP have never even looked at it.”

Big pharma is the real winner in TPP plan
Deborah Gleeson
June 11 The Drum ABC
June 10, WikiLeaks released a close-to-final draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) annex on pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
The supposed aim of this part of the TPP is to achieve “transparency” and “procedural fairness” in programs that subsidise these products, such as Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. But like the TPP negotiations themselves, it is anything but transparent. And it’s certainly not fair.
It’s been more than three-and-a-half years since the public last saw a draft of the annex. But while the revised draft is certainly better than the first, it still has major problems. The annex is now closely modelled on the provisions in the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement. In theory, it should result in few if any changes to our PBS. But small changes that have been made to the legal wording may end up having big effects on the way the rules are implemented.  And there is a consultation mechanism that could be used to apply ongoing pressure to countries to make changes to their health programs in the interests of the US-based pharmaceutical and medical device industries.
Even more worrying, pharmaceutical companies will be able to sue governments directly over their pharmaceutical policies in international tribunals using the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS) – and the terms of the annex may bolster their claims. This is the same type of legal avenue that tobacco giant Philip Morris is using to sue Australia over our plain packaging laws, and US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly is using to sue Canada over its decisions on medicine patents.
The annex appears to be mainly intended to target New Zealand’s Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC). Some of its provisions – such as adhering to specified timeframes for assessing applications and disclosing rules used to assess them – will impose substantive new obligations on PHARMAC that could reduce its effectiveness by limiting its flexibility and autonomy, and allowing the industry to frustrate its decision making.
These threats to New Zealand’s drug program are particularly worrying given that PHARMAC is highly effective in containing costs while ensuring affordable access to medicines. This makes it a model pharmaceutical coverage program suitable for adoption by developing countries.
The Healthcare Transparency Annex is clearly intended to cater to the interests of the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. The annex serves no public interest purpose and provides a negative precedent for future regional trade agreements. It could also constrain the options of developing countries in introducing pharmaceutical coverage programs in future. The negotiating countries should not agree to its inclusion in the TPP.

Deborah Gleeson’s full commentary on the leaked TPP annex is published on the WikiLeaks site.  Dr Deborah Gleeson is a lecturer in the School of Public Health and Human Biosciences at La Trobe University.
June 10, 2015
TPP Transparency Chapter
Annex On Transparency And Procedural Fairness For Pharmaceutical Products And Medical Devices
Wednesday 10 June 2015, WikiLeaks published the Healthcare Annex to the secret draft “Transparency” Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), along with each country’s negotiating position. The Healthcare Annex seeks to regulate state schemes for medicines and medical devices. It forces healthcare authorities to give big pharmaceutical companies more information about national decisions on public access to medicine, and grants corporations greater powers to challenge decisions they perceive as harmful to their interests.
The draft is restricted from release for four years after the passage of the TPP into law.
The Obama administration was trying to gain “Fast-Track” approval for all three from the US House of Representatives  on June 11, having already obtained such approval from the Senate.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks publisher, said:
It is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the west versus the rest. This “Great Treaty” is descibed by the Pentagon as the economic core to the US military’s “Asia Pivot”. The architects are aiming no lower than the arc of history. The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support.

Read the TPP Transparency for Healthcare Annex here
Read the Analysis by Dr Deborah Gleeson (Australia) on TPP Transparency for Healthcare Annex here
Read the Analysis by Professor Jane Kelsey (New Zealand) on TPP Transparency for Healthcare Annexhere

The June 2015 article in the New England Journal of Medicine – below-  summarized concerns about TPP´s impact on healthcare in developed and less developed countries: an increased price of medical drugs due to patent extensions, it claims, could threaten millions of lives, extending “data exclusivity” provisions would “prevent drug regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration from registering a generic version of a drug for a certain number of years”, the international tribunals that can require corporations be paid compensation for any lost profits found to result from a nation’s regulations could interfere with domestic health policy.

June 2015: In the New England Journal of Medicines it is asked:
The Transpacific Partnership: is it bad for your health?
The New England Journal of Medicines June 10, 2015
Amy Kapczynski, J.D.
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1506158
International trade deals once focused primarily on tariffs. As a result, they had little direct effect on health, and health experts could reasonably leave their details to trade professionals. Not so today.
The full health implications of the TPP are hard to judge, not only because its provisions are complex but also because the draft text is a closely held secret. Even members of the U.S. Congress can see it only if they agree not to talk publicly about it and if they leave their pens and phones (and, until recently, their expert staffers) at the door. But several key chapters have recently been leaked and reveal that the TPP could have a substantial impact on health.
Groups including Médecins sans Frontières and Oxfam warn, for example, that the agreement could threaten the lives of millions of people in developing countries. The TPP could impose obligations on developing countries that go far beyond any existing trade agreement. Indeed, some proposals in the leaked IP chapter seem directly targeted against innovative measures that developing countries have used to maximize the use of low-cost generic medicines. Read the complete article here

April 2015: Trade deal negotiations rumoured to be almost complete
The next meeting is scheduled for late May, 2015 and as always we are told that the negotiations are almost complete.  However, we are aware that there are still many issues that have not been resolved.  In the last months Dr Debra Gleeson and colleagues have published a number of articles that provide insight into what is going on behind those closed doors.

‘The Industry framed the TPPA as contributing to the public good. The TPPA
was portrayed as redressing inequitable pharmaceutical policies, which limit
peoples access to new medicines. Further, the TPPA was constructed as the
route to economic growth for the USA and ultimately for all TPPA countries,
through increased intellectual property protection for the pharmaceutical
industry. This framing obscured tensions between Industry interests and public
health goals. The Industry remained silent on the issue of affordability, a key
dimension of equitable pharmaceutical access. The use of rhetoric, such as
win-win outcomes(for TPPA countries and the Industry), hid the vested
economic interests of the Industry in the TPPA. Understanding the Industrys
framing of issues can assist public health advocates in challenging prevailing
discourses and exposing vested interests.’
Read the whole Public Health Analysis of pharmaceutical industry statements about the TPPA here

Vietnam: In Assessing the impact of alternative patent systems on the cost of health care: the TPPA and HIV treatment in Vietnam, presented by Moir, Tenni, Gleeson and Lopert in November 2014, the authors summarise

In the Trans Pacific partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations, the United States has proposed expanded patent protections that will likely impact the affordability of medicines in TPPA partners. This includes antiretroviral (ARV) medicines used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Vietnam has the lowest GDP per capita (US$1,911 in 2013) of the 12 countries participating in the TPPA negotiations. Official estimates suggest that in 2014 Vietnam had around 256,000 people living with HIV.1 By the end of 2013 antiretroviral (ARV) therapy was provided to 82,687 people – 68% of those meeting the clinical criteria for such medicines. 2  Read more here

The health impact on Australia assessment can be found here and ‘What doctors should know about the TPPA’ from these authors can be found here.

Trade deal health concerns
Nicole MacKee
Monday, 9 February, 2015

The call comes as an online MJA editorial highlights the potential health ramifications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which takes in 12 Pacific rim countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US, and is expected to be signed this year. (1)
Editorial coauthor Professor Sharon Friel, professor of health equity at the Australian National University, told MJA InSight now was the time to add “a strong public health voice” into the negotiations because it would be too late once Australia was locked into an agreement.
Professor Friel said the lack of transparency meant it was difficult to know precisely how the TPPA would affect the nation’s health goals, but leaked information and the content of other trade agreements indicated several ways in which health policy could be undermined.
The editorial authors warned that intellectual property rules proposed in the TPPA would enable pharmaceutical companies to extend patents and prolong monopolies, which could result in cost blowouts in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). They also raised concerns about the potential inclusion of investor–state dispute settlement mechanisms, which could see companies sue or threaten to sue governments over public health policies that could impact their ability to market their products in Australia.
A similar mechanism has been used by Philip Morris Asia to sue the Australian Government over plain tobacco packaging. (2)

Professor Friel said such a mechanism could also contribute to “regulatory chill”, where governments resisted implementing public health strategies that could result in legal action.
Adjunct Professor Michael Moore, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) and vice president and president elect of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, said while his organisation had had many productive meetings with past and present federal governments about the potential public health consequences of the TPPA, the inability to view agreement drafts was frustrating.
“The reason it sticks in my craw, is that we know major industry, such as pharmaceutical companies, are on the negotiating team for the US. So certain industry players not only get to see what is in the agreement, but get to play with the drafts. In these agreements there are issues of principle, but the devil is going to be in the detail.”

Professor Moore said the PHAA had warned state and federal governments that public health initiatives could be stymied by provisions in the agreement. For example, Thailand’s proposal to put pregnancy warning labels on alcohol had been challenged by several World Trade Organization members, including Australia. (3)
He said the matter would be raised at this week’s World Congress of Public Health in India, which was expected to sign off on a call to action in line with its 2012 pledge to “advocate for fair trade in all commodities that affect human health”. (4)

A spokeswoman for the federal Department of Health said Australia would not accept an outcome on the TPPA that would adversely affect the PBS or Australia’s health system more generally.
“The Australian Government will not sign up to any international agreement that restricts Australia’s capacity to govern in its own interest”, she said.
The parties had agreed to keep documents related to the negotiations, including text, confidential, as was normal practice in trade negotiations, the spokeswoman said, adding that she could not speculate on the accuracy or otherwise of leaked documents.
She said the Department of Health worked closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on domestic health policy issues related to trade negotiations. The Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, leads Australia’s participation in international free trade agreement negotiations.
Late last week, Mr Robb announced that he believed agreement on the TPPA was weeks away. (5)

1. MJA 2015; Online 9 February
2. Attorney-General’s Department: Tobacco plain packaging — investor–state arbitration
3. Drug Alcohol Rev 2013; 32:5-10
4. WFPHA: Declarations
5. ABC Rural: 5 February 2015

Don’t Trade Away Our Health: Trans-Pacific Partnership and International Drug Price Fixing
Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Economics Laureate – The New York Times
Published on 2 February 2015 at

30 Jan 2015 – A secretive group met behind closed doors in New York this week. What they decided may lead to higher drug prices for you and hundreds of millions around the world.
Representatives from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries convened to decide the future of their trade relations in the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). Powerful companies appear to have been given influence over the proceedings, even as full access is withheld from many government officials from the partnership countries.
Among the topics negotiators have considered are some of the most contentious T.P.P. provisions — those relating to intellectual property rights. And we’re not talking just about music downloads and pirated DVDs. These rules could help big pharmaceutical companies maintain or increase their monopoly profits on brand-name drugs.

 The secrecy of the T.P.P. negotiations makes them maddeningly opaque and hard to discuss. But we can get a pretty good idea of what’s happening, based on documents obtained by WikiLeaks from past meetings (they began in 2010), what we know of American influence in other trade agreements, and what others and myself have gleaned from talking to negotiators. Trade agreements are negotiated by the office of the United States Trade Representative, supposedly on behalf of the American people. Historically, though, the trade representative’s office has aligned itself with corporate interests. If big pharmaceutical companies hold sway — as the leaked documents indicate they do — the T.P.P. could block cheaper generic drugs from the market. Big Pharma’s profits would rise, at the expense of the health of patients and the budgets of consumers and governments.

There are two ways the office of the trade representative can use the T.P.P. to maintain or raise drug prices and profits. The first is to restrict competition from generics. It’s axiomatic that more competition means lower prices. When companies have to fight for customers, they end up cutting their prices. When a patent expires, any company can enter the market with a generic version of a drug. The differences in prices between brand-name and generic drugs are mind- and budget-blowing. Just the availability of generics drives prices down: In generics-friendly India, for example, Gilead Sciences, which makes an effective hepatitis-C drug, recently announced that it would sell the drug for a little more than 1 percent of the $84,000 it charges here.  Click here to read the complete article.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
– the dirtiest deal you have never heard of.
Between foreign corporations suing our governments over public health measures and environmental protection laws, higher pharmaceutical prices, and surveillance of Australians’ internet usage, there’s a lot for citizens to be concerned about.
January 26, 2015 – as further talks are about to begin, Australian activist group Get-Up launched this video.   Click to watch – it is worth watching.

Dec 10, 2014. TPP talks resumed this week, with negotiators meeting in Washington, but no major breakthroughs are expected given this weekend’s elections in Japan.

Assessing the Impact of Alternative Patent Systems on the Cost of Health Care: The TPPA and HIV Treatment in Vietnam (November 2014)
Moir, H.V. J.,Tenni, B., Gleeson, D. and Lopert, R.,
(November 27, 2014). Asia-Pacific Innovation Conference, University of Technology Sydney, 27-29 November 2014.
Abstract: In the Trans Pacific partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations, the United States has proposed expanded patent protections that will likely impact the affordability of medicines in TPPA partners. This includes antiretroviral (ARV) medicines used in the treatment of HIV and AIDS.
Vietnam has the lowest GDP per capita of the 12 countries participating in the TPPA negotiations. Using the current Vietnamese patent regime as our base case, we analyse the potential impact of alternative patent regimes on access to ARVs in Vietnam. The two other scenarios investigated are a patent regime making full use of TRIPS flexibilities, and a regime based on the US proposals in the 2014 leaked draft of the TPPA intellectual property chapter.
Using World Health Organization (WHO) treatment guidelines, we identified the most commonly used chemical entities and combinations used in the treatment of HIV. We examined patent data sets to discover patents that had been registered for these medicines and used information from examination of these patents to identify which might be granted under alternative patent regimes. We then drew on the empirical literature to estimate prices under the three patent scenarios.
The current ARV budget was used as a constraint, with the consequence that the results focus on the impact of alternative patent regimes on access to treatment.
Our results indicate 82% of the HIV population eligible for treatment would receive ARVs under a full TRIPS flexibility scenario, while only 30% of Vietnam’s eligible HIV patients would have access to ARVs under the US 2014 TPPA proposals – more than halving the proportion treated compared to the current 68% receiving treatment. Similar price impacts can be expected for other countries participating in the TPPA, though these are less economically vulnerable.

MSF responds to second Wikileaks release of Trans-Pacific Partnership text October 16, 2014

Today [Oct16, 2014] Wikileaks published a revised copy of the intellectual property  chapter from the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations:
The leaked document — dated May 2014- also discloses countries’ current negotiating positions.  Wikileaks had released an earlier version of the IP chapter in November 2013.
A preliminary review of the text confirms MSF’s serious concerns about the  Agreement’s public health impact remain valid:  some of the most damaging  intellectual property provisions remain in the text.  Adopting the text in  its current form will negatively affect affordable access to medicines and  the health of millions of people across the Asia-Pacific region.
Statement by Judit Rius Sanjuan, U.S. Manager and Legal Policy Advisor,  MSF Access Campaign:’ ‘Although we’d much prefer if negotiating countries themselves abandoned  the extreme secrecy that has characterized these negotiations, MSF  welcomes the leak of the revised negotiating text as a means to facilitate  an open, transparent discussion about the health impacts of this agreement  on MSF medical operations and millions of patients in TPP countries and  beyond.
‘The leaked text reveals that most of the more problematic provisions are  being pushed by the United States and Japan, while still being opposed by  the majority of the rest of negotiating countries. While the Australian  government continues to oppose many of the most problematic provisions, we  are concerned about Australian support for the U.S. government’s push to  mandate rules that facilitate secondary and abusive patenting by  pharmaceutical companies, which blocks more affordable generic  competition. As countries prepare for TPP negotiations in Australia  starting October 19, we once again urge all countries to reject harmful  intellectual property provisions that will restrict access to medicines.’
Some of the most harmful provisions remaining in the text would:
– Limit countries’ ability to exercise rights confirmed in the 2001 Doha  Declaration, by restricting those rights to a specific list of diseases  and situations.
– Limit the capacity that countries have to restrict secondary patenting  and abusive patenting by requiring patents on ‘new uses or methods of  using a known product.’
– Restrict countries’ ability to include important public health flexibilities in their own national laws, for example India’s Section 3(d)  patent law which requires evidence of ‘enhanced efficacy’ before  additional patents can be granted on existing products.
– Restrict countries’ ability to use to the full the public health  flexibilities recognized in the TRIPS agreement, including compulsory  licenses and patent exceptions.
– Mandate that countries include TRIPS-plus measures in their national  laws, including patent linkage, patent term extensions and new monopolies  based on clinical data exclusivity, including for biological vaccines and  medicines, which have never before been included in a US-led trade  agreement.
More info:
Joanna Keenan Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières – Access Campaign
E: joanna.keenan[at]

UNITAID report: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: Implications for Access to Medicines and Public Health
In March 2014 UNITAID published a 120 page report called The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: Implications for Access to Medicines and Public Health that was prepared by Kajal Bhardwaj and Cecilia Oh, with support from UNITAID. The authors state that responsibility for the interpretation and use of the material lies with the reader. UNITAID commissioned this report to identify proposed TPPA provisions that are likely to have implications for public health and access to pharmaceutical products. Find the full report here

Malaysia must not give in to the USA on the TPPA
CAP calls for Malaysia to withdraw from the TPPA:
As President Obama arrived in Malaysia, 26 April, the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) reiterated their call on the Prime Minister not to make any concessions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) being negotiated between Malaysia, the USA and 10 other countries. This is imperative. It could fundamentally impinge on the sovereign right of the country to make regulation and policy such as intellectual property, investor-state dispute settlement, government procurement, state-owned enterprises and the environment. Read more here

Malaysia: Anti-TPPA movement to come out with book on the controversial agreement entitled  “TPPA: Malaysia is not for sale”
10 July 2014
Malaysia’s anti-Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) movement is putting out a book as part of its protest against the pact despite confirmation from Putrajaya that Malaysia would go ahead with the controversial Pacific Rim trade agreement.
“The government has said again that it is committed to the TPP agreement. According to their latest statement, Malaysia will see the trade deal through in our favour,” Nizam said in a statement today (July 10 2014).
“However, neither the government nor the Minister for International Trade and Industry (Miti) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed have ever mentioned just what is being negotiated in detail.”  See the complete statement here

A Matter of Life and Death
By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Mar 9 2014
Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre, warns that negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement are a matter of life and death.
If you or some family members or friends suffer from cancer, hepatitis, AIDS, asthma or other serious ailments, it’s worth your while to follow the negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and other similar bilateral trade agreements.
It’s really a matter of life and death. For the TPPA can cut off the potential supply of cheaper generic medicines that can save lives, especially when the original branded products are priced so sky-high that very few can afford them.
Multinational companies have strongly opposed compulsory licenses or the Indian-type laws that allow for patents only for genuine innovations.
This is where the TPPA comes in. Mainly at the insistence of the United States, countries are being asked to accept standards of intellectual property, that go beyond the rules of the WTO’s. Read more here

Protecting the Health of Australians in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.  February 17, 2014
Dr Deborah Gleeson, one of the authors of the brief, added: “Some of the provisions proposed for the TPPA would increase the cost of the PBS for the government and taxpayers. These costs could be passed on to patients through higher costs for prescriptions. The brief shows how increased medicine costs can lead to adverse outcomes such as poor health outcomes, financial burdens and higher rates of hospitalisation. Disadvantaged population groups and people with chronic illnesses bear the brunt of these poor health outcomes.”

“Many provisions in the TPPA could also affect the ability of the Australian Government to effectively tackle the harm caused by tobacco and alcohol” said Dr Gleeson. “For example, the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, which the Government has said it is prepared to negotiate for the TPPA, could result in more legal challenges like the case already brought by Philip Morris Asia against Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws.”

“The Public Health Association of Australia, together with many other NGOs, urges the Government to ensure that no provisions are adopted in the TPPA that would negatively impact the health of Australians” said Mr Moore.  Read more

Australian Petition
May 19, 2014, the fight against the Trans Pacific-Partnership (TPP) went right to the doorstep of Australia’s democratic representatives in Canberra.   A petition with 1.8 million signatures from collaborating organisations accompanied an explanatory letter calling for the TPP to be made public. The signatories believe the need to open democracy has never been more urgent.
The letter highlighted the Public Health costs of the TPP:

– Proposals for extended patents on medicines would mean higher prices for new medicines for longer in Australia and would have even more severe impacts in developing countries.
– Other proposals in the agreement to limit the ability of governments to regulate medicine prices would undermine our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), increasing costs to government and leading to pressure for higher prices at the chemist.
– Proposals for restricting government regulation of food, alcohol and tobacco labelling could reduce the policy space to adopt effective public health policies in the future.

A recent Health Impact Study of the TPP conducted by health academics from seven
universities showed that these costs to public health could outweigh any economic benefits for Australia.
Read the whole letter and see the signatory organisations here

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