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EU-India FTA: Protest Calls for Withdrawal of All Provisions Impacting Access to Medicines, Right to Health

Online Publication Date: 08 February 2012
Today about 50 over health access activist from +Malaysian Treatment Access Advocacy Group, trade unions and members of the Coalition Against FTA had a protest outside the EU Delegation office at the Menara Tan & Tan at 10.30 am.

The protest was in solidarity with Indian PLHIV and Health Access campaigners, who are also protesting and calling for a worldwide week of action against the EU-India FTA deal. Currently the EU-India summit is about to begin and it is proposed to pave way for the sealing of the EU-India FTA .

The memorandum as follows:

For the past several years, health and public interest groups around the world have been asking the European Commission (EC) to stop promoting dangerous trade policies that threaten the health and lives of millions across the developing world.

With ongoing negotiations on the EU-India FTA leading to the scheduled EU-India summit in February 2012, we, the undersigned, call upon you (the EC) to desist from seeking the inclusion of provisions relating to intellectual property in the EU-India free trade agreement as they will adversely impact access to affordable medicines for millions of patients in India and across the developing world.

India – the lifeline for millions in the developing world

As you are well aware, India is one of the largest producers of generic medicines in the world. The importance of generic medicines from India is underscored by the fact that in 2008, of the 100 countries, 96 countries purchased generic ARV medicines from Indian generic makers. It is indisputable that the availability of affordable, quality generic anti-HIV medicines from India resulted in rapid scale up of HIV treatment in many countries, saving thousands of lives. Millions rely on India for medicines for HIV, cancer, heart disease, mental illness and other diseases.

As a member of the World Trade Organization, India amended its domestic laws to comply with its obligations under the Agreement relating to Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) in 2005. Amongst other provisions, it reintroduced product patent protection for medicines. At the same time, India has made use of flexibilities available to it under the TRIPS Agreement and introduced public health safeguards in order to protect and promote public health. Health groups have been using these health safeguards to ensure that generic production continues from India.

EU’s TRIPS-plus demands will undermine access to medicines

However, all this could change because of the EU-India FTA. It is evident from leaked negotiation texts of the EU-India FTA that the EU has been negotiating TRIPS- plus intellectual property provisions with India.  While the proposed text proclaims respect for the Doha Declaration, the provisions actually militate against it.  In the long run, these will whittle down India’s capacity to continue to remain a producer of generic medicines. For instance, we understand that the EU still continues to demand that India provide data exclusivity – a well known TRIPS-plus demand.

We also understand that the EU is seeking higher intellectual property enforcement standards, which include border measures, facilitating the obtaining of court orders of injunction against suspected infringers and inclusion of investment provisions. Each of these would allow multinational pharmaceutical companies – the very same companies who historically priced medicines out of the reach of those who need them – to sue the Government of India and Indian generic companies, in a bid to restrict the policy space available to India to take measures to protect public health and to deter generic competition.

We are also dismayed at the signing of the secretly negotiated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) by the European Union that has been severely criticized by public interest and health groups who are concerned that ACTA could harm public health.

EU’s trade policies are undermining human rights

The EU has always held itself out as a promoter of human rights and an advocate of developmental goals of poverty reduction and sustainable development.  

Yet, its trade negotiations with developing countries belie these claims. The United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the Global Fund on AIDS, TB and Malaria and UNITAID have all warned against developing countries, particularly India, being forced to adopt exactly the sort of demands that the European Commission is making in this FTA.

We also understand that your negotiating stand is also contrary to European Parliament resolutions. For instance, in 2007, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the TRIPS Agreement and access to medicines calling on the Council to “meet its commitments to the Doha Declaration and to restrict the Commission's mandate so as to prevent it from negotiating pharmaceutical-related TRIPS-plus provisions affecting public health and access to medicines, such as data exclusivity, patent extensions and limitation of grounds of compulsory licences, within the framework of the EPA negotiations with the ACP countries and other future bilateral and regional agreements with developing countries.”

We, therefore, once again call upon you to demonstrate that the EU’s commitments to human rights are not mere protestations.

We call upon you to drop your demands for ANY and ALL provisions in the EU-India FTA and all other FTAs with developing countries that will adversely impact access to medicines.

Access to medicines is a right for ALL and not a privilege for only those who can afford to pay the exorbitant prices. 


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