For Immediate Release
Contact: Kris Torgeson - 917-913-0183

MSF Warns That Signing US-Central American Trade Agreement Threatens Access
to Life-Saving Medicines

  Guatemala City/Geneva, 28 May 2004 – The international medical
  humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans
  Frontières (MSF) today warned signatories of the US-Central American Free
  Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that signing and taking further steps toward
  ratifying this agreement will endanger the health of millions of people
  living in Central America.

  “By signing CAFTA, Central American countries like Guatemala are
  effectively trading away the health of their people,” said Anna Cavalli,
  MSF Head of Mission in Guatemala. “The extremely restrictive intellectual
  property provisions in this agreement will block access to low-cost
  essential medicines for Guatemalans. As an immediate consequence, in
  Guatemala, thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases
  will no longer benefit from medicines available at reduced prices due to
  generic competition in other countries.  For poor people in Guatemala and
  other countries in the region, the price of medicines can determine
  whether they will live or die.”

  CAFTA and other bilateral and regional trade agreements with the US will
  dramatically reduce the ability of countries to provide low-cost quality
  medicines for their citizens, erasing important victories on access to
  medicines gained in recent years. These trade agreements introduce
  provisions that far exceed the World Trade Organization (WTO) standards,
  that were rejected during negotiations of the WTO Agreement on
  Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) more than
  ten years ago, and that contradict and undermine the 2001 Doha
  Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.

  By signing CAFTA today in Washington, Guatemalan president Oscar Berger
  is strengthening a national regulation on intellectual property related
  to medicines, the so-called Decree 9-2003, that is already in force in
  the country. “One month ago, President Berger publicly stated his
  intention to repeal this Decree, adopted by the Guatemalan Congress last
  year, which may effectively ban the registry and distribution of generic
  medicines in the country,” continued Cavalli. “Not only has he failed to
  repeal the Decree, but by now bowing to US pressure and signing CAFTA,
  Mr. Berger has further reneged on his promise to not allow trade
  agreements to undermine public health in Guatemala.”

  CAFTA is not the only example of an agreement that contains provisions
  that will hinder access to affordable medicines by restricting generic
  competition and blocking the safeguards reaffirmed in the Doha
  Declaration. Many of the restrictive intellectual property provisions in
  CAFTA are also included in free trade agreements completed with
  Singapore, Chile, and Morocco. In addition, many of these provisions are
  in the current draft text of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas
  (FTAA), and are expected to appear in other agreements currently being
  negotiated with four Andean countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and
  Peru), Panama, Thailand, and five southern African countries in the
  Southern African Customs Union (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa,
  and Swaziland).

  MSF believes that CAFTA is a part of a US strategy to span the globe with
  bilateral and regional free trade agreements and undermine the
  international consensus reached at the WTO, enshrined in the Doha
  Declaration, about the need for appropriate balance between the
  protection of private intellectual property and of public health.

  MSF is working in three countries affected by CAFTA (Guatemala, Honduras,
  and Nicaragua), including programs providing medical assistance for
  people living with HIV/AIDS, Chagas’ disease, and other life-threatening
  illnesses. In Guatemala MSF is providing medical assistance, including
  antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, to more than 1000 Guatemalans living with

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