Letter |

MSF open Letter to Ministers of Trade in Countries Negotiating the US-Andean Free Trade Agreement

Dear Ministers of Trade,

US proposals for the chapter on intellectual property rights of the US-Andean free trade agreement have recently been made public. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) would like to take the opportunity of the upcoming round of negotiations scheduled to take place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 13-17 to draw your attention to the most harmful of these proposals, which will have consequences for access to medicines in Andean countries concerned (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru). As you may know, MSF works in all four countries, providing primary health care in urban and rural areas, assisting internally displaced persons in conflict areas, and delivering medical care for people living with HIV/AIDS and Chagas disease.

The US proposals include all of the most restrictive provisions found in other US free trade agreements previously signed. These restrictive provisions will have one major consequence with regard to access to medicines: they will strengthen and extend the monopoly rights of multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers at the expense of patients in Andean countries. More specifically, these provisions all seek to limit, and in some cases completely block, generic competition. Generic competition has proven to be key in lowering the prices of medicines, thereby improving access to medicines.

None of these restrictive provisions are required under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and this is reaffirmed by the November 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health. Rather, these proposals are part of a deliberate strategy by the US government to increase the standards of intellectual property protection above the WTO requirements, directly undermining the Doha Declaration, and to ensure that US intellectual property standards become a global norm.