The Trans-Pacific Partnership may officially be dead yet a looming free trade battle remains in the Pacific Rim.
In March, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership concluded its 17th round of talks. RCEP is a five-year-old proposed trade agreement between 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, like India, China, and Laos and six states, like Japan and Australia, that have existing free trade agreements in the region. It’s essentially comprised of TPP nations, without the Americas and the United States.
RCEP trading partners represent 30 percent of global GDP and about half of the world’s population. As the talks continue, global health activists are alarmed. Like the TPP, the pharmaceutical industry has a lot at stake in this deal. So do much of the world’s poor.
Today the world’s largest pharmaceutical corporations dictate the way their products come to market. They sculpt global free trade.
Indeed, one of the most contentious parts of the TPP was providing excessive market protections for American drug companies and their allies. Nations push Big Pharma’s agendas, likely to curry favor with the industry and good will with countries in which its executives call home. The global health community must insist RCEP’s Big Pharma demands not find their way into the final agreement.
The RCEP negotiations are under wraps, without much input from public health experts. At the expense of medicine access, all 16 RCEP countries already accept fairly pro-Pharma terms like protecting 20-year patents for a swath of treatments that prohibit generic drug competition. Leaked text reveal South Korea and Japan advancing intellectual property provisions that go beyond current World Trade Organization arrangements.
In 1994 at the behest of the United States, the European Union, and other developed countries WTO member nations…