Multi-NGO Submission: The TPPA, Intellectual Property & Medicines


NGOs urge Abbott Government to protect access to affordable medicines in trade deal

3 October 2013 - Seven Australian health and fair trade NGOs joined forces this week to urge the Abbott Government to reject proposals to increase monopoly privileges for drug companies in the negotiations for a large regional trade deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Leaders of the twelve TPPA countries will meet in Bali on 7-8 October to discuss the deal in the light of commitments to conclude it by the end of 2013. The Coalition Government has not yet announced its positions on health and medicines for the TPPA.

The United States proposed a set of extreme intellectual property privileges in 2011 that was met with outrage by national and international health and development NGOs. International medical humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières, has warned that “Unless certain damaging provisions are removed, the TPP has the potential to become the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines”.

A subset of TPP countries has proposed a more moderate set of intellectual property provisions closer to the World Trade Organization’s TRIPS Agreement, which allows flexibility for each country to determine the level of IP protection suited to its own circumstances.

In a submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian NGOs are urging the Australian Government to continue to reject the US proposal and to support efforts by other countries to adopt standards based on TRIPS. Signatories to the submission include the Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, Médecins Sans Frontières Australia, the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV, Palliative Care Australia and the Australian Medical Students’ Association.

Michael Moore, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, said: “The US proposals for medicines in the TPPA would raise the costs of medicines for our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme – and some of these costs are likely to be passed on to the most vulnerable groups in our population, including Indigenous people, elderly people and those with chronic illnesses.”

Rob Lake, Executive Director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, said “Millions of people with HIV/AIDS in developing countries still lack access to anti-retroviral therapy. Increasing access to HIV medications depends on the availability of affordable generic medicines. Australia has a responsibility under several international declarations, including the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, to ensure that it doesn’t enter into trade agreements that would further restrict access to generic medicines.”