Accolades for Malaysian Health Minister's remarks re TPP
Online Publication Date: 15 August 2012
The debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Agreement (TPPA) has gained some traction in Malaysia, with more and more
voices being heard expressing opposition to the proposed content and manner of
negotiations between the currently nine members of the Asia-Pacific trade deal.
Criticisms have long been heard from civil society
organisations regarding various aspects and proposals of the TPPA, especially
the controversial Intellectual Property (IP) chapter that had been leaked in
February last year (http://keionline.org/sites/default/files/tpp-10feb2011-us-text-ipr-chapter.pdf) and the Investment Chapter
containing investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions leaked in June
this year (http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/tppinvestment.pdf).
But support for such concerns came from unexpected
quarters last week when Malaysia’s Health Minister expressed opposition to the
TPPA if the deal meant access to affordable medicines would be impaired and if
the government’s ability to implement policy in the public interest would be
subject to legal suits by foreign investors.
Tiong Lai, who also holds the deputy presidency of a major component party
member of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, was reported by The Sun Daily on
6 August to have said his ministry disagreed with the IP proposals to the TPPA and
described efforts to extend patent protection for pharmaceuticals as being
unfair for reducing the ability of Malaysians to obtain affordable medical
"We are against the patent extension”, stressing also that the agreement
would be detrimental to the local medical industry. Liow – in reference to the
ISDS proposal – also stressed that a foreign company should not be given the
power to sue a government due to its policies.
the health minister was not the first senior official of the Malaysian
government to acknowledge the threat posed to access to affordable medical
treatment by trade agreements. As the letter to the press by the Penang-based
Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) below [Item 1] shows, he has been
preceded by Malaysia’s most senior public prosecutor. The foreign minister of
fellow-TPP government Peru also had stated that his government “will not go one
centimetre more” to accede to patent term extensions or linkage.
as it may, it remains to be seen whether – and to what extent – the Malaysian
Cabinet led by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak would indeed preserve Malaysia’s
ability to protect and promote the public health of its citizenry, and the
policy space of its government, generally, in the face of immense pressure by
developed countries to “rise” to the high standards of the TPPA.
reference, we include below [Item 2] the original Sun Daily report containing
Minister Liow’s remarks.
include a news report [Item 3] on a public forum held a day earlier before
Liowmade his statement that saw the Malaysian
AIDS Council, Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia and the Third World
Network raise awareness of the dangers contained in proposals to the TPPA to
access to affordable medicine.
Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai for Statement on Trans-Pacific Partnership
Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) lauds the Government of Malaysia and the
Health Minister, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, for their concern over the
potential impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on public
health in Malaysia.
to The Sun Daily (6 August 2012), Liow categorically asserted Malaysia’s
disagreement with intellectual property (IP) proposals to the TPPA negotiations
between Malaysia and eight other countries in the Asia-Pacific to extend patent
protection for pharmaceuticals as being unfair for reducing the ability of
Malaysians to obtain affordable medical treatment.
"We are against the patent extension” and stressed that the agreement
would in effect make healthcare less affordable to the public and be
detrimental to the local medical industry. Liow also stressed that a foreign
company should not be given the power to sue a government due to its policies.
also known as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, is a
USA-led free trade agreement (FTA) that aims to further liberalise the economies
and create a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific.In addition to the USA and Malaysia, the
other countries involved in the negotiations are Australia, Brunei, Chile, New
Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
the patent term extensions, there are a number of other proposals in the TPPA
IP chapter, which if accepted, would also make medicines more expensive for
longer in Malaysia.
already provides strong IP protection that gives adequate protection to
pharmaceutical companies. Therefore there is no need for Malaysia to agree to
even stronger IP provisions in the TPPA, especially since they have been shown
to increase medicine prices in other countries which introduced them.
proposal for the TPPA that would adversely affect access to affordable medical
treatment is the ‘Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Healthcare
Technologies’ Annex.1The provisions
proposed will restrict medicine pricing programmes and require that appeals be
allowed to determine whether medicine ‘reimbursement rates’ “appropriately
recognize the value” of pharmaceutical patents.
Australia, such provisions appear to have led to costlier medicines.2If accepted, such proposals would undermine
the Malaysian government’s ability to set affordable medicine prices. The USA
proposal is contrary to practices in the USA itself, and raises the bar higher
than current medicine pricing programmes in the country.
Ministers have taken a similar position to Liow’s. For example when asked by
the Committee’s Chair, how the Malaysian Government can ensure that trade
agreements do not affect provision of generic medicines, particularly for the
treatment of HIV/AIDS, Malaysian Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani told the
United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child that free trade agreements
are TRIPS-plus and Malaysia would not negotiate on this issue. He also stated
that "generic drugs should not be restricted in any manner," as
generics are cheaper than patented medicines.3
Minister of Foreign Commerce and Tourism José Luis Silva publically said that
in the TPPA negotiations ‘We will not go one centimetre more’4 than the current
Peru-US free trade agreement (which does not have patent term extensions or
trade agreement negotiations with the European Union where similar intellectual
property provisions were being negotiated, India’s Minister of Commerce and
Industry flatly refused to agree to data exclusivity saying that "There is
no question that we will accept data exclusivity in any (free trade) agreement
with any country".5
addition to the above, Liow had also remarked on the controversial
investor-state dispute system (ISDS) proposed for the TPPA. The ISDS allows
foreign investors to sue governments directly at an international tribunal for
enacting or implementing laws, regulations, policies or programmes including
for public health, but which an investor sees as having infringed upon an
investment or expected profits. As Liow stressed in his statement, “a company
should not be given the power to sue a government due to its policies”.
cases in the past have successfully challenged public interest measures
including for health, such as banning dangerous chemicals and preventing toxic
waste from contaminating the water supply. Tobacco companies are also currently
using ISDS to sue governments for billions of dollars for their tobacco control
rejecting ISDS in the TPPA, it will greatly help to preserve Malaysia’s ability
to implement tobacco control and other health policies, as Australia has done
in its rejection of ISDS in the TPPA.
welcome Liow’s statements over the matter of patent extension and ISDS. We hope
the Minister can maintain his strong stand in rejecting provisions that may
adversely impact the health of Malaysians.
above discussion makes clear, there are many other proposals submitted for the
TPPA negotiations that need careful – and public, we must add – scrutiny for
their impact – in the near and longer future – on the welfare, wellbeing and
interests of the Malaysian public.
all proposals that adversely affect public health, access to medicines and the
space available for our regulators to act in the interests of the public should
be opposed and rejected.
3http://www.3dthree.org/pdf_3D/3Dnote6_Malaysia2007.pdf.This was during
negotiations of the never-completed Malaysia-US free trade agreement in which
presumably similar strong intellectual property provisions were being
Malaysia says no to TPP
6 August 2012
Azizul Rahman Ismail
LUMPUR (August 6, 2012): Malaysia is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Agreement (TPP) which seeks to extend the patent periods of medicines by
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the agreement, which is being
negotiated among eleven countries including the US and Malaysia, would be
detrimental to the local medical industry.
are against the patent extension. According to the agreement, if a medicine is
launched in the US, and then three years later it is launched in Malaysia, the
patent would start from when it is launched here and not when it was launched
earlier in the US," said Liow. "This is not fair."
stressed that the agreement would in effect make healthcare less affordable to
this to reporters after launching Project WATTS (Where Aid Turns To
Sustainability), an environmentally focused charity campaign by The Truly
Loving Company Sdn Bhd here today.
is a multilateral free trade agreement intended to further liberalise economies
in the Asia-Pacific region.
it has reportedly drawn criticisms and protests in part due to the secrecy of
the negotiations and a number of controversial clauses in draft agreements that
have been leaked to the public.
that have studied the leaks claim that the US is demanding aggressive
intellectual property provisions that go beyond what international trade law
point of contention by Malaysia is that the existing patents on medicines would
be extended for another five to 10 years or more, on top of the current
requirement of 20 years.
patent extension means generic companies would not be able to produce more
affordable generic drugs during this period.
stressed that a company should not be given the power to sue a government due
to its state policies.
agreement, investors can claim compensation from governments on the grounds
that a new regulation has adversely affected their investments.
nine member countries of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership are
Brunei, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Mexico and
organisations in Malaysia had at a forum on Saturday expressed reservations
about the TPP.
include the Malaysian AIDS Council, Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia
and the Third World Network.
that his ministry is working to make hospitals more energy efficient and thus
more environmentally friendly and economical.
are 28 general hospitals in Malaysia and their electricity bills alone come up
to RM115 million (annually)," he said. "We hope by replacing, among
others, light bulbs and air-conditioners in these hospitals and specialist
centres with ones that are more energy-efficient, we can see a minimum saving
of 10% next year."
explained that the project will start in the Klang Valley and a saving of 3% is
expected to be achieved by the end of the year.
NGOs concerned over medical
issues related to TPP
LUMPUR (Aug 4, 2012):
Malaysian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have reiterated their concern
over medical-related issues which come under the Trans-Pacific Partnership
AIDS Council Policy Executive, Fifa Rahman, said the Malaysian government has
not engaged with the industry people or the NGOs on the issues.
are worry that the person assigned to negotiate on the agreement might not be
somebody from the field and in the end, Malaysians will suffer," she said
this at a public forum on 'The impact of TPP Agreement on the Accessibility to
Affordable Medicine' here today.
panel consisted of officials from Malaysian AIDS Council, Breast Cancer Welfare
Association Malaysia and the Third World Network, an independent non-profit
international network of organisations [sic].
among the possible negative impacts from TPP were expensive patent protection,
patent linkage that prevented registration of generic medicines and border
measures that could lead to their unjustified seizures.
the US, via the TPP, wanted strict provisions that would reduce access to
medicines are expensive because the company holding the patent has the
exclusive right to make or import them for 20 years," she said.
claimed that the US planned to extend the exclusive right period to 25 years
and this would stop Malaysians from getting more affordable medicine.
US is demanding strict border control measures, which will enable TPP
governments to seize generic medicines when imported, exported or in transit so
long as they looked confusingly similar to trademarked goods," she said.
Malaysia has agreed to sign the agreement because it would bring in more
foreign direct investments and provide more jobs to the local. She also alleged
that the US also planned to liberalise the tobacco industry to boost its
TPP is a
multilateral FTA that aims to further liberalise the economies of the
Asia-Pacific region. Among the countries that have joined the negotiations are
Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, Vietnam and Peru. – Bernama