Letter |

DNP+ Reaction Statement to Indian Trade Minister

4 min

To : Shri Anand Sharma, Honorable Minster of Commerce & Industry

Re: Trading away our lives in secret negotiations India-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

Dear Shri Anand Sharma ji,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+) to express concern regarding recent reports in the press concerning your views on the impact of ongoing negotiations between India and the European Union (EU) for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on India’s generic industry. That the planned FTA deal will not hurt the generic drugs industry in India?

As a support group of People living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) working towards universal treatment access and providing support services to the PLHIV community, DNP+ relies on domestic medicine manufacturing industry to supply more affordable, life-saving treatments. The importance of India’s generics is in fact international in scale, as the majority of people on AIDS treatment across the developing world depend on our country’s capacity to manufacture and export good quality cheaper versions of medicines. This is quite simply a matter of life and death for millions of us.

Leaked versions of India-EU FTA negotiating text1 contain a number of intellectual property (IP) provisions, the consequences of which will affect our access to medicines.

Data exclusivity will considerably delay the introduction of generic medicines into the market and will make compulsory licences meaningless. Extended patent terms will keep medicines at unaffordable prices and out of the hands of patients for longer. Border measures will legitimise recent seizures by EU customs officials of Indian generic medicines in transit to other developing countries and threaten to disrupt the trade in legally produced affordable drugs.

These IP provisions included in the negotiating text mean that there will be an impact on the domestic medicines manufacturing industry. Whether it causes them “injury” is another matter – perhaps the domestic industry will tie up with MNC pharma and become their contract manufacturers or they will be completely bought over so that the promoters of the domestic companies make sufficient profits as has been seen recently in the takeover of Ranbaxy, Dabur Pharma and Shantha Biotech.

In all this, where will our access to medicines fall? Where will the access to medicines for the entire developing world fall? Will our lives be left to the mercy of financial and corporate decisions made by companies? Or will the government pro-actively ensure that the legal and policy framework determined by the Indian Parliament in 2005 for the continued domestic production of safe, effective and affordable generic medicines remains intact?

Is the government going to respect its Constitutional and international obligations on the right to life and right to health? Will it stick to its international position of not accepting TRIPS-plus measures?

The decisions of the local companies to continue manufacturing life saving medicines or to sell out to multinational pharmaceutical companies is likely to depend on whether India accepts TRIPS-plus provisions in the EU-India FTA or indeed in any other FTA with developed countries.

We are dismayed that the UPA government’s only concern in these trade negotiations is whether there will be injury to the domestic industry or not and not the much more important and crucial issue of what actual impact they will have on public health and peoples’ lives. If these TRIPS-plus provisions are accepted, there will be great “injury” to people living with HIV, TB, cancer, asthma and other diseases in  India and other developing countries.

We demand that the government assure us that it will NOT accept any TRIPS-plus measures in this or any other FTAs.

We also stand in solidarity with all other poor, vulnerable, marginalised groups including farmers, women, environmental groups, trade unions, bank employees, small scale industries, who will also be adversely impacted by these FTA negotiations. Till the impact of this FTA on the lives, health and livelihoods of all Indians is assessed

We ask that the Indian government:

  1. STOP all FTA negotiations till there is public consultation.
     
  2. Not sign any FTAs without Parliament & State Legislatures’ approval.
     
  3. Immediately release all information, studies and negotiations on all FTAs by the government.

We also look forward to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry holding an immediate consultation with public interest and health groups on the EU-India FTA.

Sincerely,

Loon Gangte
President, Delhi Network of Positive People.