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TPPA Ministers set to make crucial IP decisions this weekend

21 February 2014

For immediate release

TPPA Ministers set to make crucial IP decisions this weekend in Singapore

The intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that Wikileaks posted in November signalled over 100 areas of disagreement. Those ‘square brackets’ have been rapidly disappearing in the lead-up to the ministerial meeting in Singapore this weekend, according to Professor Jane Kelsey, who is in Singapore monitoring the negotiations.

‘By the start of the officials’ meetings on Monday the 100-plus points of disagreement in last year’s intellectual property text had already been whittled away. I understand there have been further major decisions already this week, even before the ministers meet’, Kelsey said.

‘There is talk about the US making compromises and showing flexibility. This is an old trick. They set the original threshold outrageously high. Then they agree to “concessions” that are still far beyond the status quo. The result is new rules that profit Big Pharma at the expense of access to affordable medicines and protection of public health’.

One of the most crucial remaining decisions for TPPA ministers is the US demand for new rules that would give the pharmaceutical companies longer monopoly terms, including for patents, and delay the entry of new generic medicines to treat diseases like cancer and diabetes.

News reports say the US presented a proposal in Salt Lake City that sought 12 years of exclusivity, as applies in the US. Other countries laws currently allow for 8 years, as in Japan, 5 years as in Chile or Australia, or none, as in Peru and Vietnam. That proposal post-dated the Wikileaks text.

‘While the details are, of course, secret, the strong sense here is that the parties will settle on eight years, if they haven’t already - hardly a “concession” from the US end,’ Kelsey observed.

‘That would significantly squeeze Pharmac’s budget in the future or mean that New Zealand patients have to pay these high prices for the latest medicines’.

Other crucial intellectual property issues likely to be decided at the ministerial are:
- Data exclusivity for new uses/formulations for old substances
- Patent term extensions to cover the processing period for patent applications
- Patent linkage of marketing approval to existing patents
- Extension of copyright terms from life of the author + 50 years to life + 70 years.

Professor Kelsey recalled how ‘last November, we were reassured that the leaked IP text showed New Zealand’s negotiators were holding the line to protect our ability to decide our own health policy.’

‘Moving beyond that long-held position will mean the government has capitulated to the US.’

‘Trade minister Groser has no choice. He must put New Zealanders’ health first by refusing to accept any of the US demands. And he must show us the outcome of the ministerial meeting so we can hold him accountable for his actions’.

ENDS

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