Thailand To Join TPP Negotiations; Access To Medicines Likely To Suffer As A Consequence
from the deals-behind-closed-doors dept
Although things have gotten rather quiet on the TPP front, that doesn't mean that the juggernaut has been halted. On the contrary: after Canada and Mexico signed up to join the negotiations under highly unfavorable terms, it now looks like Thailand is about to do the same, as the Bangkok Post reports:
Thailand's entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be a highlight of the visit [to Thailand] by the US president amid concern by activists over the consequences of the far-reaching free trade pact.
Those concerns are chiefly about access to medicines at affordable prices. This became an area of contention after previous bilateral negotiations with the US collapsed in the wake of the military coup in Thailand, as infojustice.org explains:
In late 2006, after the FTA [Free Trade Agreement] negotiations had fallen apart, the Ministry of Health began granting compulsory licenses for needed medicine. Between November 2006 and January 2007, it granted licenses for patents on two antiretroviral drugs (efavirenz and lopinavir+ritonavir) and clopidogrel, a heart medication sold by Bristol Myers Squibb. The licenses were issued for government use, after years of prior negotiation with the patent holders, and include a 0.5% royalty rate. USTR responded by putting Thailand on the 301 Priority Watch List, citing "further indications of a weakening of respect for patents, as the Thai Government announced decisions to issue compulsory licenses for several patented pharmaceutical products." Thailand has remained in the Special 301 Report ever since, and it was subject to an "out of cycle review."
If Thailand joins the TPP negotiations, it will undoubtedly be forced to rescind those compulsory licenses -- one of the key features of TPP is its strengthening of protection for pharma patents. The inevitable consequence of that will be increased prices in Thailand for key medicines, and more people suffering and dying as a result. It would be interesting to know what pressure has been brought to bear on the Thai government to take what seems such a damaging step for its people, when other nations are moving in precisely the opposite direction.