TWN Info Service on Health Issues (Oct16/03)
17 October 2016
Third World Network

An open letter to the sixteen governments negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

17 October 2016


Health organisations call on trade ministers to reject provisions that would negatively affect access to generic medicines in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement.

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.

The RCEP includes an intellectual property (IP) chapter with measures that threaten access to life saving essential medicines. Even though it does not include the United States, many of provisions appear to have been borrowed from the US-Korea free trade agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. In April 2016, a leaked IP chapter (dated October 2015) verified that South Korea and Japan were pushing for data exclusivity, a measure that could delay regulatory approval for medicines that are off patent, and provisions that will lengthen medicine patent monopoly periods. This will only serve to delay the market entry of affordable generic medicines and goes well beyond the intellectual property protections required by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

This chapter is of particular concern as India’s IP laws attempt to strike a fair balance between the rights of the patent holders and the need to provide affordable medicines to its citizens and people in the developing world. India is the world’s largest producer of generic medicines and supplies more than 80% of generic anti-retro viral (ARV) medicine to treat HIV in low and middle income (LMIC) countries. Its generic medicine industry has reduced the cost of ARV medicines over time by up to 98%, vastly increasingly access to medicines for those most in need. If India is forced to sign onto TRIPS plus measures, access to affordable generics of new essential medicines for a number of diseases for the world’s poorest people in Sub Saharan Africa and other low and middle income countries will be seriously compromised. For example Malaysia provides Indian generic ARVs free of charge to their HIV positive population. It is highly unlikely that Malaysia could afford to sustain their HIV treatment program if they are unable to access Indian generics. RCEP also includes several LMIC that have large populations and economic pressures to ensure affordable access to medicines, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, China and Vietnam. Least developed country (LDC) members Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar are struggling to provide affordable access to medicines and have an extension in the WTO on pharmaceutical IP protection until 2033 (and are eligible to extend this period for as long as they are LDCs).

UNAIDS reports that only a third of the people in the Asia and Pacific region who need HIV treatment currently have access. If RCEP countries agree to elevated IP protection in RCEP, this figure could likely increase.

There is no justification for an intellectual property chapter in regional trade agreements such as the RCEP. We call on all negotiating governments to reject all TRIPS plus measures in the RCEP. In particular we call upon wealthier countries such as South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand to resist pressing for IP provisions that threaten access to medicines for the world’s poor.

Signatory civil society organisations

Organisation                                             RCEP country
MSF Access Campaign                                          Global

International Grail Global Justice Network          Global

People’s Health Movement                                   Global

Public Services International - Oceania              Regional

Asia Pacific Research Network                             Regional

Public Health Association of Australia                 Australia

MSF Doctors Without Borders Australia              Australia

Australian Health Promotion Association            Australia

Caritas Australia                                                       Australia

Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network     Australia

Community and Public Sector Union/SPSF           Australia

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association              Australia

Finance Sector Union of Australia                          Australia

Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Justice and Peace Centre Australia

Pax Christi Australia                                                 Australia

Edmund Rice Centre                                               Australia

Catholic Religious Australia                                   Australia

Grail Australia Global Justice Network                 Australia

N.S.W Retired Teachers’ Association                   Australia

Institute of the Sisters of Mercy Australia              Australia

Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes in NSW Australia

Textile Clothing & Footwear Union of Australia      Australia

Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association      Australia

Retired Unionists Network                                        Australia

Sutherland Shire Environment Centre                   Australia

Sisters of St Joseph                                                   Australia

De La Salle Brothers                                                 Australia

SS Peter & Paul Catholic Parish Social Justice Group Australia

Bandanh Chatomok National MSM and TG network      Cambodia

Cambodian People living with HIV Network- Takeo      Cambodia

Cambodian Health Committee                                 Cambodia

Southeast Asia Development Program (SADP)      Cambodia

Committee to Promote Women in Politics              Cambodia

Social Action for Change                                          Cambodia

SILAKA                                                                         Cambodia

Women's Network for Unity                                      Cambodia

CamASEAN Youth's Future                                      Cambodia

Gender and Development for Cambodia              Cambodia

Worker's Information Center                                    Cambodia

The Messenger Band                                               Cambodia

Women's Network for Unity                                     Cambodia

Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance                              Cambodia

Rainbow Community Kampuchea                        Cambodia

ARV Users Association                                            Cambodia

KORSANG                                                                 Cambodia

National Coalition of PLHIV in India - NCPI+      India

The Delhi Network of Positive people                  India

National Coalition of People living with HIV in India India

UPNPplus                                                                  India

MGNP+                                                                      India

Maharajganj Positive Network                              India

Maharaja DLN                                                         India

Network of Maharashtra by People Living With HIV/AIDS - NMP+ India

Indonesia AIDS Coalition                                      Indonesia

la via campesina indonesia                                  Indonesia

Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC)               Japan

Third World Network                                              Malaysia

Malaysian AIDS Council                                       Malaysia

Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC)      Malaysia

Pertubuhan Islah Movement                                Malaysia

Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+) Malaysia

Consumers Association of Penang                     Malaysia

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia) Malaysia

Cooperative Committee of Trade Union              Myanmar

Mana Movement                                                       New Zealand

The Mana Party                                                        New Zealand

New Zealand Nurses Organisation                      New Zealand

Public Health Association of New Zealand         New Zealand

IBON Foundation                                                      Philippines

Social Watch Philippines                                         Philippines

People’s Health Movement Philippines                Philippines

Knowledge Commune                                              South Korea

IPLEFT                                                                         South Korea

CHSC (Center for Health and Social Change)     South Korea

KFHR (Koean Federation of Medical Action Groups for Health rights) South Korea

People’s Health Movement KOREA                      South Korea

Korean pharmacists for democracy society         South Korea

People's Health Institute                                          South Korea

Solidarity for HIV/AIDS Human Rights-NANURI+      South Korea

Trade Commission of MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society  South Korea

Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG)              Thailand

Thai Network of People living with HIV/AIDS (TNP+)   Thailand

Alternative Agriculture Network (AAN)                        Thailand

Renal Failure Patient Group                                         Thailand

AIDS ACCESS Foundation                                           Thailand

Foundation for AIDS Rights                                          Thailand

Foundation for Consumers                                           Thailand

Rural Pharmacy Association                                         Thailand

Drug Study Group                                                            Thailand

BioThai Foundation                                                         Thailand

Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand (EARTH)     Thailand

Thai Holistic Health Foundation                                    Thailand

FTA Watch                                                                          Thailand

Foundation for Women                                                    Thailand

Vietnam Network of People living with HIV                 Vietnam