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Disagreement over data protection holding up US-Andean FTA

BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest, Geneva, 28 September 2005


Ecuador’s opposition to US demands on access to test data for clinical drug trials has emerged as a primary obstacle in the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) talks between the US and a group of three Andean countries. Trade officials from the US, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru met in Cartagena, Colombia from 19-23 September for the twelfth round of Andean-US FTA negotiations (Bolivia participates as an observer). The talks are being held up primarily due to persisting differences among the parties on intellectual property rights and agriculture.

As part of the intellectual property rights obligations in the FTA, the US wants a five-year protection period for the clinical test data that pharmaceutical companies submit to government sanitary authorities when seeking the right to put a new drug on the market. Colombia and Peru have accepted this. Ecuador, however, insists that the data protection period should be no longer than three years.

The agriculture negotiations are isolated from the broader talks, and have been continuing on three separate bilateral tracks between the US and each of the Andean countries. Little of substance is expected to emerge from those discussions. This would disappoint the Andean countries, which have been seeking increased access to the US market for their farm products (see BRIDGES Weekly, 14 September 2005).

The Colombian and Peruvian governments maintain that they would like to wrap up the talks by October. Ecuador, in contrast, has said that it is in no rush to conclude the talks, as a result of the data protection issue.

PUENTES Quincenal, 21 September 2005.

 source: BRIDGES