STATEMENT OF ROBERT WEISSMAN,
CO-DIRECTOR, ESSENTIAL ACTION
ON THE CAFTA NEGOTIATIONS AND ACCESS TO MEDICINES
The United States Trade Representative has forced down the throats of
Central American countries enhanced patent protections. If the Bush
administration succeeds in ramming the agreement through the U.S.
Congress, the result will be that people die.
USTR should today be ashamed, rather than crowing.
By prioritizing the super-profit demands of Big Pharma over public
health imperatives, USTR has ignited an additional group of opponents
of CAFTA in Congress.
The actual CAFTA text remains secret -- secret only from the public;
negotiators and business know what has been agreed on -- but all
indications are that USTR has achieved the Big Pharma agenda of
demanding a range of provisions that will delay the entry of
price-lowering generic competition for medicines. These provisions
There is no defensible reason to include intellectual property rules
in CAFTA. All negotiating countries are members of the WTO, and bound
by its intellectual property rules. All agreed to the Doha
Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and the Public Health, requiring
countries to implement the WTO agreement in a fashion that would
"protect public health and, in particular, … promote access to
medicines for all." Inclusion of IP in CAFTA can only mean countries
will be more protective of Big Pharma's interest, at the expense of
expedited introduction of price-lowering generic competition, and at
the expense of their obligations under the Doha Declaration.
- Monopolistic protections for safety and efficacy test data needed
to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceuticals.
- Patent-term extensions.
- Requirements that marketing approval be linked to patent status,
turning drug regulatory agencies into patent enforcement bodies.
- Limitations on the grounds under which compulsory licenses may be
issued (conflicting reports have emerged as to whether the U.S. is
demanding such provisions -- as it is in the Free Trade Area of the
Americas -- in CAFTA).
- Investment protections, based on NAFTA's notorious Chapter 11, that
would deter compulsory licensing and generic competition.
Essential Action is a Washington, D.C. corporate accountability group.
It focuses on intellectual property and global health issues.