Unions and Environmentalists join People With AIDS to Derail the FTAA
"A going away party for the US trade negotiations headed for Quebec"
11:00 AM: Press Briefing, at offices of Friends of the Earth: 1025 Vermont Ave. NW
Speakers: Laura McTighe, ACT UP Philadelphia; Thea Lee, Public Policy Dept. AFL-CIO; Brent Blackwelder, President, Friends of the Earth; Fred Azcarate, National Director, Jobs With Justice; Jo Marie Griesgraber, OXFAM America; Rob Weissman, Essential Action (moderator)
12 Noon: March and Rally: leaves McPherson Square (15th and Eyeı ST. NW) for rally at the office of US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick (17th and Fı NW).
(Washington DC) More than 1000 protesters will converge on the office of the USTR at 17th and F Streets, NW, on Thursday, April 12, after a short march leaving at noon from McPherson Square. The protesters will denounce the Bush Administrationıs secretive negotiation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) because it will reduce access to affordable generic versions of essential HIV/AIDS medication, and threaten health care, education, labor rights and environmental across the Western Hemisphere.
The reconstituted Seattle Coalitionı of activists includes AIDS, labor, environmentalist, and fair tradeı organizations. The activists will demand that the USTR end its push to expand NAFTA to all of the Western Hemisphere.
"This trade pact threatens the rights of HIV-positive people in impoverished nations to obtain the medicine they need to survive. The health and survival of people in North and South America must be put before the commercial interests of the pharmaceutical industry," said John Bell of ACT UP. "NAFTA's legacy of destroying jobs, small businesses and health standards does not need to be deepened."
The activists report that the US negotiating position poses a serious threat to Brazilıs acclaimed generic AIDS drug program. Faced with 1.2 million infections predicted by World Bank epidemiological models, Brazil embarked in 1997 on an ambitious program to locally manufacture expensive affordable versions of expensive patented medicines. The competition from generic medicines brought prices down by over 90% in some cases. The Brazilian effort now provides free medicine to every region of Brazil, including newly constructed clinics in very remote areas. Sustainable access to affordable medicine in Brazil resulted in plummeting rates of death and new infection.
In a March meeting with ACT UP activists and allies, USTR officials made clear that the FTAA would provide increased monopoly protection to pharmaceutical companies, and include provisions restricting the WTO-legal rights of nations to manufacture or purchase generic versions of expensive patented drugs.
Through its generic industry and commitment to affording all its citizens access to free medication, Brazil has seen its AIDS death rate drop by 52%. "Local generic competition against monopoly holders saved 500,000 lives in Brazil," said Straub. "We insist that our government withdraw FTAA negotiations that increase protections for drug monopolies beyond existing WTO intellectual property agreements."
The FTAA also contains provisions allowing corporations standing to block or overturn implementation of laws that displease industry. Cases would be heard within a secret hemispheric tribunal with the power to overrule sovereign nations .
"The FTAA cedes the sovereignty of nations to corporate interests. If GlaxoSmithKline doesnıt like Brazilıs generic AIDS program, it could seek to have it suspended," said ACT UPıs Jim Straub. "Drug companies are highly likely to use this provision to limit the ability of poor countries to obtain and distribute essential AIDS medications."
Ambassador Robert Zoellick, the nationıs cabinet-level trade negotiator, will be traveling with President Bush to Quebec later by April 20 to negotiate the terms of the FTAA with 34 other heads of state. The trade and finance ministers will be met with the largest demonstrations since activists derailed the WTO's Seattle Round. Over 10 thousand protesters are planning to lay siege to the closed secret negotiations. The discussions will occur behind a physical wall surrounding the center of Quebec City, erected for the occasion.
Brenda Wheeler of ACT UP states, "We are throwing a going away party for the trade negotiators as they prepare for the negotiations in Quebec City on April 20. Robert Zoellick can be certain to find thousands of people with AIDS and their allies in his face until he takes every possible step to protect poor countries efforts to increase access to medicine."
ACT UP demands:
Health GAP Coalition
ACT UP Philadelphia
+1.215.731.1844 ACT UP tel.
+1.215 474.6886 direct