India joining TPP regime will make medicines costly, inaccessible for poor: Experts

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement expected in weeks, experts have warned if India gives in to US “pressure” to join the deal,it will “damage” the access of medicines in developing nations.

The TPP is a regional free trade agreement being negotiated by 12 countries across the Asia-Pacific region – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, and Vietnam.

The proposed accord would cover nearly 40 percent of global economic output and one-third of all world trade. Passage of the TPP is one of the primary goals of the current US administration’s trade agenda.

“The US. will probably seek to have India join up later. It will be very damaging for access to medicines… very very bad,” Deborah Gleeson, public health lecturer at Australia’s La Trobe University told IANS at the ongoing 14th World Congress on Public Health here.

Gleeson, who works on trade agreements, is the convener, Political Economy of Health Special Interest Group, Public Health Association of Australia.

She said India’s partnership in TPP would infringe on its globally-acclamed strict patent regulations.

“It would affect patents for new uses and new methods of using existing drugs and the section 3D of India’s patent act which restricts the use of patents that can be granted. If India was to sign up it would have to give that way and data exclusivity and patent term extension,” she said.

The TPP intends to enhance trade and investment among the partner countries, promote innovation, economic growth and development, but globally there has been criticism of the negotiations, largely because of the proceedings’ secrecy and the agreement’s widespread scope.

“When the Congress conference resolution comes out, there will be a paragraph on the pressure that the US is putting India under and a call for India to resist the pressure and for US and other countries to stop pressuring India – the whole world depends on India-retaining its strong patent laws and giving in,” she revealed.

Gleeson also stressed India agreeing to TPP norms would be detrimental to its generic medicines industry.

Echoing this, Laetitia Rispel, a public health expert from South Africa, said: “India really restricts the number of patents that are granted and that is important in providing medicines to other developing countries.”(IANS)

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