NAFTA: Threatens to undermine affordable medicine . . .

NAFTA: Threatens to undermine affordable medicine . . .

Postby Oscar » Mon Feb 05, 2018 9:03 am

NAFTA will undermine health unless Canada resists monopolies on medicines

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By Nicholas Caivano Opinion Richard Elliott Mon., Feb. 5, 2018


There are two potential changes to NAFTA that threaten to derail progress toward affordable access to medicines:

First, U.S. trade representatives are advancing Big Pharma’s demand for more restrictive intellectual property rules, pushing longer patent terms and “data exclusivity” rules that would lengthen the period they can keep secret the data they submit to Health Canada for new drug approvals.

This would delay the development of generics and boost patented companies’ already handsome profits at patients’ expense, by extending monopolies on medicines and thwarting market competition to lower consumer prices.

Second, business lobbies are pushing hard to maintain and expand the widely-denounced “investor-state dispute settlement” mechanism currently found in NAFTA.

Usually, disputes over trade agreements are hashed out between the governments that signed them. But this kind of clause allows companies to take direct legal action against governments for interfering with their profits—or even their expectations of profits—by regulating in the public interest.

When these cases succeed, governments end up paying hundreds of millions of dollars for acting in the public interest, such as protecting access to medicines or the environment. At a minimum, these provisions in trade agreements create a chilling effect against governments doing the right thing from the get-go.

The fine print of what Big Pharma and the U.S. are pushing in NAFTA is complex. But the end goal is clear: they want to rework the deal to increase corporate power and profits, when drug prices are already unaffordable for many. NAFTA could also be used as a dangerous template for global trade agreements to come.

This is why Canadian and Mexican negotiators should stand up to the Americans, in the interest of their own people and of the millions around the world who cannot afford yet more deadly trade deals keeping medicines out of reach.

Big Pharma is already well protected by existing World Trade Organization standards, based heavily on the original NAFTA. There is no need, nor moral defence, for even greater monopolies on medicines.
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