Attack on affordable medicines continues in EU-India trade negotiations

Attack on affordable medicines continues in EU-India trade negotiations

Health groups rally in Delhi as protests spread across the developing world

10 April, 2013, New Delhi­- Thousands of people living with HIV, cancer patient groups & public health activists rallied on the streets of Delhi today calling on the Indian government to reject the EU's demands in the European Union–India Free Trade Agreement (EU–India FTA) negotiations. The protests coincide with the visit of the Hon’ble Prime Minister to Germany to meet German Chancellor, Dr. Angela Merkel with the FTA at the top of the agenda. On 14-15 April, the Hon’ble Commerce Minister will be in Brussels for ministerial level negotiations to finalise the FTA.

As both sides push for the early conclusion of the FTA , the latest leaks of the negotiating text show that the EU's demands for harmful intellectual property & investment provisions have not stopped. The provisions require India to go beyond its WTO commitments & will have an adverse impact on access to medicines across the developing world.

Mr. Y.K. Sapru of Cancer Patients Aid Association, said “The Supreme Court's judgment keeping Section 3(d) alive & intact has captured global attention, sparking off global debates on the need for developing countries to protect only genuine innovations in medicines, not evergreening. Having failed to get their way at the Supreme Court in the Novartis case, we can expect the EU to push its industry's demands for changes in the Indian law to curb the Indian judiciary.”

Indeed, intellectual property enforcement measures that go beyond the WTO's TRIPS Agreement feature prominently in the leaked text. These have been adopted from the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) that was roundly rejected by the European Parliament. The EU is demanding that its companies have the power to demand the freezing of bank accounts & seizure of properties of generic companies on the mere allegation of patent infringement & to drag third parties like treatment providers into litigation. These wide ranging provisions aim to curtial the independence & discretionary powers of Indian Courts that have so far balanced patent rights with public interest in court cases.

Anand Grover, Senior Counsel & Director of Lawyers Collective, said, “the inclusion of these enforcement provisions will undermine the Indian judicial system & deprive people of access to justice. Such provisions will not only undermine fundamental rights such as the right to health & access to medicines, they also threaten to subvert the fundamental tenets of the Constitution of India.”

The EU has also been demanding the inclusion of an investor-state dispute mechanism. This would allow MNC pharmaceutical companies to sue the Indian government in secret, international arbitration over health policies like drug price control, compulsory licenses & even patent challenges. In 2012, US based MNC, Eli Lilly used this mechanism to file a case against Canada for millions of dollars because the Canadian Supreme Court overturned some of its patents.

Loon Gangte of Delhi Network of Positive People said, “The legal & financial muscle of big pharma is already on display in India. They hire the country's top lawyers & sue the Indian government & patients in patent cases around the country. With the Indian Courts upholding the Constitution, this mechanism is a despicable attempt by the Europeans to bypass the Indian Constitution & Indian Courts & move the litigation into secret tribunals overseas on the pretext of investment protection.”

Indian groups are also expressing their apprehensions over the EU's data exclusivity demands. The Indian government has maintained that it will not accept any provisions beyond the TRIPS Agreement. “We are openly challenging the European Commission to make its position on the TRIPS Agreement public. Do they believe TRIPS requires data exclusivity or not,” asked Anand Grover. By insisting that the FTA include the language of the TRIPS Agreement as revealed in the latest leak, Grover apprehends that the European Commission is simply biding its time to raise a dispute on data exclusivity once the FTA has been signed.

Shiba Phurailatpam of Asia-Pacific Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (APN+) said, “The impact of the EU's demands will be felt far beyond India's borders. The majority of people living with HIV in the Asia Pacific are on Indian generics. They have been rejoicing that the Indian Supreme Court has upheld Section 3(d) & as a result their access to medicines. We strongly support the Indian government in saying no to the EU's deadly demands. One would think a Nobel peace prize laureate would know that peoples lives & health are simply not a matter for trade negotiations.”

“The EU is now in FTA negotiations across the region – in Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand. We are urging those governments to stand strong like the Indian government. People across the world are protesting against the EU's trade policies this week. ” he added.

Contacts: Prathibha Siva:+919968050357 Anand Grover: +919899439593 Loon Gangte: +91-9871029514