Cambodian Activists Explain Why The EU-India FTA Is A Matter Of Life And Death

from the transparency-is-two-way-street dept

One of the many problems with the secretive nature of trade agreements is that it insulates negotiators from the real-world consequences of their actions. That's particularly true for the FTA talks between the EU and India, currently taking place behind closed doors. One of the key issues for the EU side is India's role as a supplier of generic medicines to the world, and India's tough stance on issues like the evergreening of pharma patents. From the various leaks that we have, it seems that the EU is demanding that India toe the line on drug patents, and cut back its supply of low-cost generics to emerging countries.

That might seem a reasonable request, since there is no doubt that India's production of generics reduces the profits of the pharma companies in Europe, which could charge far higher prices were there no competition from generics. But what that overlooks -- and what secret negotiations allow those involved to overlook -- is the impact such a move would have on millions of people around the world.

A letter from a group of Cambodian activists that struggle to supply much-needed medicines to those too poor to buy them, published on the infojustice.org site, provides us with a rare insight into what the EU's demands would mean for the world's poor:

We are saddened that behind the rhetoric of democracy, human rights and freedom the EU is in fact prioritising corporate interests to the lives of millions of people. It is needless to say that those affordable generic drugs are absolutely vital for the lives of millions who otherwise cannot afford expensive treatment of life threatening diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV-AIDS. Many suffering from such serious diseases would not be able to survive without these generic drugs produced in India.



Having seen the importance of made-in-India generic drugs for the lives of millions, we in no ways can express our frustration about the attempt of EU and European pharmaceutical giants to control the production of these cheap medicines. This must stop right now. It is a true example of putting profits before people's lives and take advantage of people's illness for corporate profits. Our lives should not be regarded as a business opportunity. We urge the EU to reconsider its pursuit of intellectual property rights for medicines and to realise that blindly protecting the interests of large European pharmaceutical corporations will lead to nothing but a subtle form of genocide of the poor, their families and children in developing countries across the world.
It's hard to believe the EU negotiators personally wish to kill thousands of the poor; but the secretive nature of the talks means that they can close their eyes to the fact that if they succeed in forcing India to cut back its production of generics, large numbers of people will certainly die as a direct result. That's another reason why these kind of talks must be held openly: not just so that we know what is happening and can give our input, but also so that those conducting the talks realize that what they are doing is not some abstract game, but a matter of life and death for millions around the world.

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Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    Capt ICE Enforcer, Apr 18th, 2013 @ 1:55am

    Think of the chuldren

    You need to think of the children. After all. What would the CEO's do if they couldn 't buy Google Stock options and new hundred -thousand dollars cars for their children..

     

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    Capt ICE Enforcer, Apr 18th, 2013 @ 1:55am

    Think of the chuldren

    You need to think of the children. After all. What would the CEO's do if they couldn 't buy Google Stock options and new hundred -thousand dollars cars for their children..

     

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    Ante Wessels, Apr 18th, 2013 @ 2:23am

    Exclusive control

    " That might seem a reasonable request, since there is no doubt that India's production of generics reduces the profits of the pharma companies in Europe, which could charge far higher prices were there no competition from generics."

    Not necessarily, as the far higher prices lead to very low volumes. Generics based on compulsory licenses on the other hand lead to high volumes, and include remuneration, for instance 6% of gross revenue. The profits may be the same, the fight is about exclusive control.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2013 @ 2:46am

    The oligarchy of the commission is looking at the composition of the parliament. In the parliament there is a given majority of conservatives and therefore a majority supporting stronger IP protection.

    The commission has a single job, which is to get ideas from the majority among their lobbyists through the parliament. Before ACTA FTAs were almost 100 % sure to go through, no questions asked.
    This FTA is likely to get critique from human right groups which will turn the red and red/greens off. The greens are generally very sceptical and will likely vote no too. There are 2 conservative groups who will vote "oh god, yes!" with a few non-voters here and there. They will get support from some right wingers and some liberals, which in total is likely to give a stable majority almost no matter what. ACTA was voted down because the liberals turned against it, while the conservatives chose not to vote in fear of losing money from the pro-ACTA companies and the losing votes from the anti-ACTA people.

     

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    anonymouse, Apr 18th, 2013 @ 3:36am

    R&D

    This is their threat, that the tiny amounts of money used for r&d will not be invested, forgetting that an extremely large proportion of those r&d costs 90% and more, are covered by the tax payer through universities students studying and coming up with new drugs and new uses for older drugs.

    I am in no way saying that pharmaceutical companies should not make a profit , that is why they exist, but if they are going to use knowledge generated by taxes then there "patents " need to be very restrictive. i.e not cost a fortune for something that is very cheap to produce. Only having profits for the first 2 years of the products lifetime, which would encourage more development of the product. And definitely not being allowed to attack any other entity using the same taxpayer generated content to create a similar drug at a very cheap cost.

    Big business is twisting the laws to generate massive profits for themselves and this is causing death around the world, they need to be reigned in and not allowed to buy the laws or be the ones creating the laws.
    Something has to change otherwise the future holds nothing but revolution by the people.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2013 @ 5:25am

      Re: R&D

      Laughable statements about taxes and academia. Those costs are negligible compared to the amount pharma has to spend on clin trials, GMP and certification.
      Anyway, good for India. Pharma move? Novartis stated that they pulled their plans to establish anything related to innovative technology/new meds in India. Other companies are expected to follow the suit.

      Oh, and BTW, those who think that generics are all the same, read the Wellbutrin XL story.

       

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        Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Apr 18th, 2013 @ 7:06am

        Re: Re: R&D

        Novartis stated that they pulled their plans to establish anything related to innovative technology/new meds in India. Other companies are expected to follow the suit.

        Good. Abandon those markets and let new companies come in and fill the void. Just don't come crying when those companies are competing with you.

         

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          Ninja (profile), Apr 18th, 2013 @ 7:18am

          Re: Re: Re: R&D

          That. It's not like India doesn't have the bright academic minds to come with good solutions. Brazil is doing that all the time and we have very little incentive for research here ;)

           

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            John Fenderson (profile), Apr 18th, 2013 @ 9:43am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: R&D

            Yes. In the software engineering world, anyway, India is producing a substantial portion of the best engineers available.

             

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    Ninja (profile), Apr 18th, 2013 @ 3:47am

    That's my main problem with IP laws be them patents or copyrights. They prevent those without financial muscle from exploring existing IP to make better or derivative stuff. If you think copyright it shouldn't even be a requirement, nobody should need to pay or ask for permission to build upon the work of others and this is specially true when you see that much of the new works is based on previous contributions either by enhancing or by remixing and rebuilding.

    Now this generics fight is emblematic of human greed. The big pharmaceutical companies could sell their stuff for much less while still making some decent profits. The problem is exactly that: they want mindboggling profits, not just enough so they can lead a decent life. Not just enough revenue so they can re-invest in R&D and live comfortably. They want more, one yacht is not enough, they want 20. They aren't satisfied with one small plane, they want several, bigger, luxurious planes. What else would you use profits if not for luxury at a determined point?

    And even if we assume a lower price maybe the profits will not be that harmed because much more people will have access to it.

    Meanwhile human lives are lost for pure greed.

     

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    cxlwxz, Apr 18th, 2013 @ 3:50am

    chiavette usb

    This is their threat, that the tiny amounts of money used for r&d will not be invested, forgetting that an extremely large proportion of those r&d costs 90% and more, are covered by the tax payer through universities students studying and coming up with new drugs and new uses for older drugs.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2013 @ 5:00am

    'It's hard to believe the EU negotiators personally wish to kill thousands of the poor'

    why not? they have had/are having damn good teachers in those from the USA! remember what has happened/is happening with other 'trade agreements'! the USA isn't interested in the slightest in the number of deaths caused by over-pricing medicines. the important thing for these companies is keeping control for as long as possible, for much longer than the original agreed date! what all these companies seem to forget is that eventually, there are no poor people! they have all died and the only ones left are the mega rich but there are too few of them to warrant carrying on producing things. then there is the old scenario that the ones affected eventually are the very ones that did the dirty on humanity and no one wants to help them. there is a need and a place for everyone. without the lower classes, the upper classes wouldn't exist!!

     

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      Atkray (profile), Apr 18th, 2013 @ 7:26am

      Re:

      'It's hard to believe the EU negotiators personally wish to kill thousands of the poor'

      I think it was a spell check auto correction. I suspect he meant to type:

      'It's sad to realize the EU negotiators personally wish to kill thousands of the poor'

       

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    Slicerwizard, Apr 18th, 2013 @ 9:12pm

    "In the software engineering world, anyway, India is producing a substantial portion of the best engineers available."

    Is that a joke?

     

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