Posts Tagged 'Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)'

UNAIDS calls on trade negotiators to uphold governments’ commitments to public health and access to medicines

Repost from UNAIDS

GENEVA, 28 July 2015—As the world celebrates the achievement of reaching 15 million people with HIV treatment and commits to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, UNAIDS reminds countries of the urgent need to ensure that new trade agreements under negotiation do not impede access to medicines.

In the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly, governments reiterated their commitment to the use of existing flexibilities under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, specifically geared to promoting access to and trade of medicines, and to ensure that intellectual property rights provisions in trade agreements do not undermine these existing flexibilities, as confirmed by the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.

“The flexibilities established in the Doha Declaration and the TRIPS agreement to protect public health and provide access to medicines for all should be fully respected during the negotiation of new trade agreements,” said UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé. “We are entering a crucial phase of the AIDS response which will decide whether we end the epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. Anything that undermines that response must be avoided.”

Various trade agreements are currently in negotiation and concerns have been expressed that they could involve so-called ‘TRIPS-plus’ measures such as broadening patentability criteria and extending patent duration.

Trade negotiators from 12 countries are currently working to conclude the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which includes an intellectual property chapter that reportedly contains provisions going beyond what is required under the TRIPS Agreement. Such “TRIPS-plus” provisions could make generic competition more difficult and lead to higher drug prices. There is also concern that any TRIPS-plus provisions agreed in the TPP are likely to influence future trade agreements.

Generic competition in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the use of intellectual property flexibilities, have helped make prices for life-saving drugs much more affordable and enabled the unprecedented scale up of HIV treatment programmes.

“The imperative over the next five years is to diagnose millions of people living with HIV and get them access to the life-saving medicines they need,” said Mr Sidibé, “The right to health must not be negotiated away for trade gains.”

If the global AIDS response is to attain the 90-90-90 treatment target by 2020 – 90% of people living with HIV knowing their status, 90% of people who know their status on treatment, and 90% attaining viral suppression – HIV treatment must be accessible and scale-up must be financially sustainable.

A Whole-of-Government Approach to Trade

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President Obama’s groundbreaking December 2011 Presidential Memorandum calls for a cross-agency, whole-of-government approach to addressing LGBT human and civil rights shortcomings abroad. That effort surely will be a legacy of his presidency. But has the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiation honored that approach?

For several weeks, the Council for Global Equality has engaged the Administration on our concerns about the draft trade deal. We worry that the heightened intellectual property rights (IPR) restrictions being negotiated, and championed by the U.S., could make it harder for poorer signatory countries to access affordable HIV/AIDS and other life-saving communicable disease medicines in order to respond effectively to legitimate health care crises. We also find it troublesome that, as far as we can determine, the negotiations have minimized any discussion of the human rights situations in prospective signatory countries, including the treatment of LGBT individuals – issues bound to impact any long-term growth in bilateral relations, including in the trade arena.

We know, of course, that this is a trade deal, not a human rights pact. We know too that trade can be beneficial, not only to U.S. corporations, but to the populations of many other countries. But surely we can do a better job of reflecting our values and human rights priorities, even in the context of global trade.

We deeply believe in a whole-of-government approach – one in which all government foreign affairs agencies frame their individual substantive goals in such a way as to support overarching national purposes. Certainly that was implicit in the President’s 2011 Executive Order. It was even more explicit in former Secretary Clinton’s creation of a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), to marry more closely the policy goals and programmatic tools of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.   (We engaged former Congressman Tom Perriello on the latter, and were happy to see some of our focus on LGBT-fair policies included in the most recent QDDR.)

In the same sense, trade pacts, like other national instruments, should align with broad national policies. That is where our concerns with TPP lie. By letter, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has signaled U.S. support for flexibility in the IPR applications on life-saving pharmaceuticals needed to win the global war against HIV/AIDS.   We hope the commitment to the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health means that the U.S. will not pursue so-called “TRIPS-Plus” provisions in this context. Without concrete trip-wire mechanisms to ensure the flexibility that the Doha Declaration suggests, the strengthened IPR protections in the current draft TPP agreement are out of sync with our country’s humanitarian goals, as embodied most notably in our life-saving PEPFAR programs. The Trade Representative also points to the importance of regular engagement with TPP signatory countries on human rights issues. We appreciate this approach, and we look forward to concrete pledges that these concerns will be addressed as part of this and future trade agreements, consistent with the whole-of-government approach that is a hallmark of good governance.

As the House of Representatives takes up debate on the Administration’s request for fast-track authority, we hope it will make clear that USTR must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the State Department in making clear that public health takes precedence, and that human rights shortfalls only erode our ability to sustain any long-term growth in bilateral trade. Perhaps a case can be made that an eventual TPP trade agreement may be in our national interests – but not if our national commitment to fair treatment, inclusion and humanitarian values is cheapened by the result.


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