JOINT PRESS RELEASE, 18 September 2013 (Act Up-Paris, Health Action International, Oxfam International. Action against AIDS Germany): Following the official launch of the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and the Kingdom of Thailand in March 2013, Thai officials and EU negotiators are meeting this week (16-20 September) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to conduct a second round of negotiation of a trade agreement that both parties want to achieve in as little as 18 months
This week, around 5 000 health, consumer, and farming activists from various Thai civil society networks are taking part in a campaign to defend access to public goods under this FTA. They are organizing a wide range of activities such as demonstrations, press conference and meeting with the EU delegation.
Thai health activists want to remind Thai and EU negotiators that the FTA should not include Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) that go beyond the already stringent WTO obligations (TRIPS agreement). Such provisions would only reinforce monopolies of multinational pharmaceutical companies, increase the price of medicines and create new access barriers to cheap generic medicines.
They also call on negotiators not to include investment provisions that would allow investors (eg. pharmaceutical companies) to legally challenge the Thai government in secretive arbitration panels for any measures the government may take to curtail, override or strike down patents and other forms of IP protection on public health grounds, even if it is allowed to take such measures under TRIPS and the Doha Declaration.
Act Up-Paris, Oxfam International, Health Action International and Action against AIDS Germany strongly support Thai civil society. EU negotiators should take into consideration the importance of access to cheap and good quality generic medicines for patients in Thailand when negotiating this trade deal. Since 2002, a system of universal health coverage exists in Thailand which covers 99% of the population. The production and availability of affordable and quality generic medicines is a key element to sustain this universal coverage.
“We fear that should TRIPS+ measures or dangerous investment provisions be included in the Thailand-EU FTA, the ability of the Thai government to keep on running the current health system and to provide its citizens with the medicines they need might be hampered”, says Leïla Bodeux from Oxfam International.
"The EU's position on intellectual property protection in previous FTAs, including the earlier failed negotiations between the EU and ASEAN, suggests that the EU will push for tough IPRs in this FTA and will grant powers to investors, including the pharmaceutical industry, that could open for the door to abuses that jeopardize the Thailand government’s efforts to provide health care for all", says Tessel Mellema from HAI.
“The EU should refrain from demanding IP provisions that go beyond TRIPS as well as harmful investment provisions. In supporting the commercial interests of its pharmaceutical industry, the EU is damaging the opportunities for innovation and access to medicines in Thailand”, says Celine Grillon from Act Up-Paris.
“There is no human right to the realization of commercial interests, but there is a universal right to health! The EU delegates must have this in mind, when negotiating terms of the trade agreement with Thailand and other countries”, says Astrid Berner-Rodoreda from Action against AIDS Germany.