Monday, February 29, 2016

IPR and Innovation 32, On TPP, medicines patent and tobacco trademark

After the 4th Asia Liberty Forum (ALF) ended in Kuala Lumpur on February 20, SEANET organized a small group discussion on "business friendly regulations", same hotel venue. I was one of those invited. Below, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, CEO of IDEAS and Director of SEANET, spoke to explain once again what the meeting-seminar was all about.

Aside from independent think tank leaders from some ASEAN countries, some friends outside the region were also there, like Barun Mitra, Cris Lingle, Julian Morris, Lorenzo Montanari.

I gave a brief presentation. Brief as in 8 minutes or less.

TPP’s liberalization agenda will:

1. Force open members’ economic sectors such as agriculture, affect poor peasants, women

2. Further push them into poverty, compete with giant agricultural corporations from more developed countries

3. Increase corporations’ access to indigenous people’s lands and territories for resource extraction without their free prior informed consent (FPIC)

4. Undermine country’s right to reject genetically modified
organisms (GMOs), subject those GMOs to prior risk assessment; ensure uninterrupted trade for GMOs to the benefit of major GMO producers and exporters like the US and Canada

5. Permit corporations to violate labor rights by making it easier to offshore jobs to countries with lower labor standards

6. Encourage more inflows of migrants who later forced to become undocumented migrants  to add more cheaper and docile labor

7. Endanger people’s right to quality and affordable healthcare due to strict intellectual property rights (IPR) on patents, data monopolies to medicines

8. Make educational materials become expensive with strict IPR

9. Violate internet users’ privacy rights and will stifle creativity and freedom of expression through severe copyright rules

10. Mean death to democracy, allow corporations to use investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) to attack public interest laws to increase their profits; corporations suing governments over living wages, environmental protection , people’s access to public utilities

11. Have knock-on effects on the whole region, have potential to be the standard that all future trade deals will follow

12. Promote the hegemony of corporations, neoliberal regimes and political and economic dominance of the US and other powerful States over the developing and underdeveloped economies of the world.

Among the prominent arguments why people hate the TPP and other FTAs with the US and EU is that stronger IPR protection would mean more expensive medicines, affecting even off-patent, generic drugs. Is this true?

No. Perhaps all TRIPS flexibilities with regards to newly-invented medicines were respected by the TPPA. Like these texts, the red comments on the right are mine.

Then I added another aspect of IPR infringement, the abolition of trademarks and brand logo for cigarettes.

Concluding Notes:

1. Joining the TPP has more gains than pains for member-countries, especially in exports and overall GDP expansion.

2. IPR health provisions in TPP not scary, apply only to newly-invented medicines and not to cheaper generic drugs. Existing TRIPS flexibilities for new meds are maintained.

3. Possible that generic pharma lobby + anti-capitalism, anti-globalization NGOs created more fear than what the TPPA actually provides.

4. More to fear in government taxation of medicines, mandatory drug price discounts and price controls, than IPR protection.

Brief presentation, I think I spoke for only 7-8 minutes, then the others gave their own inputs and insights on other topics. The full 14-slides presentation is available in slideshare.

Meanwhile, the debate seems raging in Malaysia now regarding their government's plan to introduce plain packaging in tobacco products too. All these news reported since last week.

It's now a Singapore-Indonesia-Malaysia triumvirate of tobacco plain packaging legislation. Soon it will infect the governments and stakeholders in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. And if they succeed, next would be beer, whiskey, other alcohol products? Then chocolate bars, soda and cola. The WHO should be involved in this new government initiatives. I will follow this development.

See also:

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