[Patralekha Chatterjee for IP Watch, Link (CC-BY-NC-SA)] The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), part of US President Barack Obama’s promised pivot to Asia, has stirred up a hornet’s nest on the ethics of trying to hammer out a trade deal in secrecy. But it is not the only one. A proposed trade agreement in Asia, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), is facing the same hiccups and flak.
The User Rights track of the Fourth Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, to take place in Delhi, India, December 15-17, 2016, seeks research contributions. The User Rights track will focus on how law and policy can play a key role in breaking down barriers to full participation in the digital economy through expansions of user rights — the rights of users to access, use and transform digital content to further social, economic, cultural and political purposes. User rights can be found in diverse fields of law, including in human rights (e.g. the right to freedom of expression and opinion, the right to participate in cultural heritage, the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, the right to privacy, the right to health), in limitations and exceptions and enforcement policies in intellectual property laws, in net neutrality and other communication industry regulation, in consumer and competition protection, in privacy rights — including those related to the capturing of user data, in contracts and terms of service, and through other laws that protect the rights of users of the digital economy and the content shared through it.
The effects of patenting pharmaceutical products on access to medicines in developing countries are relatively recent as these countries have only been mandated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) rules to grant patents on pharmaceuticals since 2005. As a result there are a limited number of empirical studies documenting these effects.
However, patents grant the patent holder a monopoly on the market that allows the blocking of price-lowering generic competition and the raising of prices which restricts affordable access to medicines. Where patent and other intellectual property (IP) barriers do not exist, generic competition has proven to lower prices of medicines. The attached memo provides numerous examples where intellectual property rules stronger than those required by TRIPS have raised the cost of medicines.
Earlier this month, Senator Jeff Sessions wrote President Obama to ask him to make a section of the Trans Pacific Partnership public – the section that creates a “new transnational governance structure known as the Trans Pacific Partnership Commission” which would “have the authority to amend the agreement after its adoption, to add new members, and to issue regulations impacting labor, immigration, environmental and commercial policy.”
The senator was frustrated by the secrecy surrounding the text. To read it, he had to visit the secret reading room in the basement of the Capitol Visitors center where legislators can read the text, while being watched by security guards. He is unable to discuss anything he has read with advisers, staffers, or the people he represents.
The eighth round of negotiation for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement is taking place in Kyoto, Japan and negotiators are meeting to discuss intellectual property provisions. That Japan is representing the private interests of pharmaceutical companies by pushing TRIPS-plus intellectual property (IP) provisions in RCEP negotiations is evident.
Congress appears poised to pass Trade Promotion Authority, otherwise known as ‘fast track,’ for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). If this happens, it will likely close the door to any possibility of meaningful public input about TPP’s scope and contours. That’s a major problem, as this “21st century trade agreement” encompassing around 800 million people in the United States and eleven other countries, will impact areas ranging from access to medicine (who gets it) to digital privacy rights (who has them). But, unless you are a United States Trade Representative (USTR) “cleared advisor” (which almost always means that you represent an industry, like entertainment or pharmaceuticals), or, under certain limited circumstances, an elected official, your chief source of TPP information is WikiLeaks. In other words, if Julian Assange gets his hands on a draft TPP text, you might see it, once he decides that it should be made public. Of course, you’ll have to hope that the copy that you see is current and accurate.
[Belinda Townsend, Deborah Gleeson and Ruth Lopert, The Conversation, Link, (CC-BY-ND)] You’ve probably heard of the controversial and secret Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations, which have generated concerns in many quarters.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has highlighted serious risks the agreement may reduce access to medicines and health care. United States Senator Elizabeth Warren has rebuked the inclusion of dispute clauses that would enable corporations to sue governments if their policies negatively affected profits. And several Australian parliamentarians have raised concerns at the lack of transparency surrounding the negotiations. Meanwhile, negotiations for another trade agreement, equally shrouded in secrecy, are raising alarm among health and humanitarian organisations.
In a special session about TPP at the Chilean House of Representatives, Heraldo Muñoz, the local Foreign Affairs Minister, identified intellectual property and pharmaceutical patents as the most sensitive issues for Chile in the negotiation.
In a two-hour session at the the House of Representatives Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Muñoz presented the benefits and the costs of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for Chile, and answered questions made by representatives, especially regarding intellectual property and US certification. The session was requested by 45 representatives, led by the former student leader and current representative for Santiago, Giorgio Jackson, with the intent to have more information about the secretive negotiations on TPP.
Though the recently scheduled Ministerial meeting was postponed – reflecting other countries’ frustration with the United States’ inability to win Congressional passage of Fast Track trade negotiating authority – the intellectual property negotiators have been attempting to finalize as much text as possible.
The Japan Times reports that the intellectual property chapter appears “likely to be the last hurdle to concluding the talks.” Remaining issues that are under debate include copyright term, geographical indications, and data exclusivity (a time period during which generic firms cannot win approval of their products based on clinical data previously disclosed by branded firms).
Joint letter to Congress
PDF with signatures on eff.org
Dear Members of Congress: We write to you as a community representing thousands of our nation’s innovators, entrepreneurs, job-‐creators, and users to express our concern over trade agreements such as the Trans-‐Pacific Partnership (TPP). Despite containing many provisions that go far beyond the scope of traditional trade policy, the public is kept in the dark as these deals continue to be negotiated behind closed doors with heavy influence from only a limited subset of stakeholders.
The Senate and House Reports on the Trade Promotion Authority bills working through Congress include important, albeit limited, steps toward endorsing balanced intellectual property norms in trade policy.
The Senate report, released today, states:
OVERVIEW: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is currently being negotiated among 12 Pacific Rim countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. If passed, it will become the largest U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) in history. It is anticipated that the agreement will expand existing intellectual property (IP) protections on pharmaceutical products, which will ultimately impede access to affordable generic medicines for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C.