While the government continues to march on with the EU-India FTA, protester's have also continued to voice their concerns over the impact that the IP provisions of the draft Agreement will have on making medicines inaccessible. March 2nd marked a day of protest by health activists from across India including PLHIV Networks and Network of People who use Drugs, as well as activists from affected countries such as Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines who came to New Delhi to voice their concerns against this FTA. "Dont trade away our lives"blog has covered the protest here. (The FTA and in particular the controversial 'data exclusivity' provisions is something we've written about several times on this blog as well. See here.)
|Pic taken from here|
In particular, the protests have been against the inclusion of 5 provisions: 1) Data Exclusivity 2) Investment rules 3) Border measures 4) Injunctions and 5) Other IP Enforcement Measures. The problems with investment rules is actually something that I was not aware before these protests. Apparently tobacco companies are using IP provisions in investment chapters to sue governments for steps they have taken as public health measures. I reproduce a snippet from the donttradeawayourlives blog.
“As we speak, Philip Morris is using the Switzerland-Uruguay trade agreement to sue Uruguay for its decision to introduce larger and more graphic health warnings on cigarette packs,” said Y.K. Sapru, of the Cancer Patients Aid Association, which has long advocated for tobacco control measures in India. “The Indian government and the World Health Organization should wake up to the fact that the Convention on Tobacco Control is also under attack in these FTAs.”
Tobacco companies suing governments for their public health measures in the name of free trade? Certainly sounds extreme. While that arguably is not an immediate worry in India, there is no doubt that the above mentioned prices will certainly price many important medicines out of the budget of most of the patients who require it the most. Let's hope these protests are falling on the right ears, and in time.
According to sources, the FTA is set to be completed and signed by Spring this year.