Civic groups warn of negative TPP impact on poor people

Singapore, Dec. 8 (CNA) Civic groups warned of the potential negative impact a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement could have on the poor and their medical rights as ministers from 12 countries gathered in Singapore for closed-door meetings on the trade bloc.

Speaking outside the meeting hall, Meena Raman of the Consumer Association of Penang claimed that the U.S. delegation asked for longer patent periods for drugs, citing what she said was a leaked document.

If the U.S. proposal is incorporated into the TPP arrangement, she said, the ensuing lack of competition could result in higher prices for medicine.

Current practices allow other manufacturers to produce generic drugs once the patent of a new drug has expired.

Another clause being considered involves data exclusivity, which could also harm the interest of the poor if it is written into the agreement, Raman said.

Data exclusivity would prevent manufacturers of generic drugs from obtaining research information related to the development of patented drugs for a certain number of years.

In addition, a TPP agreement would give pharmaceutical companies more say in deciding which drugs are eligible for state subsidies as prescribed medication and how much they are subsidized, said Deborah Gleeson, a lecturer at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

The South East Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), a civic group based in Bangkok, also faulted the TPP negotiations for backtracking on the prevention of smoking-induced health risks.

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires its 170 signatories to act on the prevention of tobacco-related diseases, but under current TPP proposals, each member government is required to consult with tobacco companies when drafting restrictions, said Mary Assunta, policy adviser of SEATCA.

The civic groups issued the warnings as ministers from 12 countries, including the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand and Vietnam, continued their four-day talks on the trade pact in Singapore.

(By Lu Hsin-hui and Jay Chen)

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