MSF asks India to reject higher IP bar at regional trade talks

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Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said India's place as the world's top provider of low-cost generic medicines is at risk if it agrees to new data exclusivity norms at talks for a proposed 16-nation Asian trade bloc.

Developed markets Japan and South Korea, the Hindu newspaper reports, made proposals to raise the bar for intellectual property protection as part of talks for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP, which aims to join the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, with the 6 countries the bloc already has individual trade pacts with.

In addition to South Korea and Japan, the 6 countries include China, Australia, New Zealand and India.

MSF has previously viewed the drug provisions under discussion at RCEP skeptically, as member countries such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand as well as ASEAN members Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia, are all part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact that adopted data exclusivity provisions for biologic drugs. The TPP awaits U.S. congressional approval as well as a timetable for implementation.

As talks are underway now in Auckland, MSF said a leaked copy of the intellectual property text under discussion showed Japan and South Korea wanted the inclusion of data exclusivity and patent term extensions that go well beyond the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, known as TRIPS, under the World Trade Organization.

“Unless negotiators remove harmful provisions from  RCEP, this trade deal is set to follow the dangerous path of the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which is recognized globally as the worst trade deal ever for access to medicines," Leena Menghaney, South Asia head of MSF’s Access Campaign, told the newspaper.

"We appeal to India’s IP negotiators in particular to stand by the promises made last week by Health Minister J.P. Nadda at the UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS that India is committed to maintaining TRIPS flexibilities to ensure access to affordable medicines."

India faced a drug industry backlash earlier this year after reports surfaced it would not approve new compulsory licenses for patented drugs. The commerce ministry denied the reports.

The Hindu noted that the proposed provisions in an approved trade pact could mean changes to India's drug and patent laws that favor generic versions of branded drugs for cost and access reasons.

- here's the story from the Hindu

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