Ottawa, ON – The U.S. trade news journal Washington Trade Daily is reporting that Canada has dropped its opposition to some of the most outrageous intellectual property rights demands of the United States in ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in Singapore this week. Responding to these revelations, the Council of Canadians wants the Harper government to publish the complete text of the TPP agreement so everyone can see what the changes, especially to patent laws, will mean for Canadians.
“It’s a disgrace that we have to rely on foreign news reports and leaked texts to find out what the Harper government is up to in the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations,” says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “And what we’re hearing – that Canada is ready to cave in on the issue of pharmaceutical patents – is bound to outrage Canadians who don’t want the price of medication go up.”
Last week, the Council released the results of a poll showing that 65% of Canadians oppose a plan to extend patents by up to two years as part of the ongoing Canada-European Union free trade negotiations. The poll did not address attitudes toward the 12-country TPP negotiations, but leaked copies of the TPP intellectual property rights chapter show the U.S. pushing for even stronger monopoly rights for brand name drug companies, including the right to patent new forms, uses or methods related to existing products. These changes will increase costs and reduce access to cheaper generic drugs across the TPP region, with a pronounced effect on developing countries.
According to Washington Trade Daily, reporting on this week’s TPP ministerial in Singapore, which was attended by Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast, “Australia, New Zealand and Canada, among others, dropped their objections to the high-standard disciplines in intellectual property and came on board by agreeing to the modified text.” That new intellectual property rights text is “WTO-plus,” writes Washington Trade Daily, “premised on very high standards regardless of differing levels of economic development among the participating countries.”
“Whether or not drug companies get 20, 22 or 25 years of patent protection has nothing to do with trade and shouldn’t be the subject of a secret trade negotiation,” says Trew. “This is a transparent effort to find more profits for U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies by undermining other countries’ efforts to keep health costs down. People have a right to see what other ridiculous trade-offs are happening in the TPP negotiations. The Harper government, and all TPP countries, owe it to everyone to make the full text public now.”
www.canadians.org/CETA | Twitter: @CouncilOfCDNs