RCEP patent clauses lack compassion says Public Health Association

The Public Health Association of New Zealand (PHA) is calling on New Zealand Government negotiators to oppose clauses in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), currently being negotiated, that would increase the cost of life-saving medicines in poorer countries.   The PHA is one of 94 organisations having signed an open letter to the 16 ministers negotiating the RCEP encouraging them to resist such provisions. Similar to provisions in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, the RCEP provisions, which are being championed by Japan and South Korea, would lengthen medicine patent monopoly periods which would delay market entry for more affordable, generic, but essential medicines. This would keep medicine prices high in countries where diseases such as HIV are rife, such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam; and especially in ‘least developed countries’, such as Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.   PHA Chief Executive Warren Lindberg says it’s important to strike a balance between the rights of patent holders and the needs of impoverished people in the developing world.   “It’s neither right nor ethical that richer countries like ours are negotiating to extend and protect profitability for multinational corporations to the detriment of people in poorer countries who have the basic human right to affordable medicines. There is a disturbing lack of compassion evident here.   “There is no doubt that extending patent periods will increase instances of diseases in these countries, leading to increased death and suffering for the world’s most vulnerable, especially children.”   Mr Lindberg said the data exclusivity and patent extension provisions being negotiated, as revealed by leaked documents, are unnecessary and go way beyond any intellectual property protections required by the World Trade Organization.   The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a free trade agreement (FTA) currently under negotiation between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and countries with existing FTAs with ASEAN which includes Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.     Public Health Association media release 21 October 2016