(Jakarta, 6 May 2011) Trade and health activists came out with a joint open letter addressed to ASEAN leaders raising concerns over the negative impact of free trade agreements on peoples’ access to medicines and right to health. Millions of people in ASEAN countries rely on affordable generic medicines to treat all kinds of diseases including HIV/AIDS, heart disease and cancer. According to the group, “the future supply of these life-saving medicines however is under threat from aggressive trade policies being imposed on developing countries in particular by the European Union and United States of America”.
“The assault on generic medicine production is taking a number of different forms, including bilateral free trade agreements, international treaties and customs regulations.” added the group. Of particular concern are the on-going EU-India FTA negotiations. The EU’s demand for stricter intellectual property right (IPR) provisions under the FTA will seriously curtail the ability of India’s generic drug industry to produce and distribute more affordable versions of these life-saving medicines. Around 80-90 % of generic medicines in ASEAN come from India and so the EU-India FTA and with its IPR provisions will have profound effects as well on costs of medicines and treatment in the region.
“Curtailing the production and distribution of affordable medicines would effectively leave people who desperately need these medicines without a lifeline” asserted the group.
They called on ASEAN leaders to ensure that our governments will not bow to political pressure from the European Union and the United States to trade away the safeguards enshrined in the TRIPS agreement or give into any other demands in current and future trade agreements that will threaten peoples’ access to these life-saving generic medicines.”