logo logo

HIV patients urge caution on EU FTA talks

The Nation, Bangkok

HIV patients urge caution on EU FTA talks

By Petchanet Pratruangkrai

21 September 2012

People afflicted with the Aids virus have called on the government to proceed carefully on free-trade negotiations with the European Union, as the latter’s demands for copyright protection could make it difficult for patients to access cheap medicines.

About 30 HIV-positive patients and the FTA Watch Group yesterday went to the Commerce Ministry calling for the government to be cautious on what it commits to during talks on a free-trade agreement with the EU.

They said the government should not accept any demands that go beyond the World Trade Organisation’s agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

In an open letter submitted to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, patients raised concern that Thailand could lose opportunities to access cheap drugs if the government is only concerned about tariff reductions for some products it wants to export to the EU market.

The letter stated that although Thailand might not immediately suffer any negative impact from this FTA if it committed to stringent protection of intellectual-property rights, the country would face huge losses from higher prices for medicines.

The letter noted that about 70 per cent of the public health budget was spent on medicines each year. That amount could rise greatly and create a long-term impact on the Kingdom’s spending.

The letter was also submitted to Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyaphirom and Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri.

Last graf says there have been 50. The activists called on the government to ensure compliance with the Constitution before making commitments to any country on liberalising markets or adopting any agreements that could have impacts on Thais’ economic and social well-being.

According to the department, Thailand and the EU have not yet officially started the first round of FTA talks. The draft of the negotiation plan is waiting for the Cabinet and Parliament’s ratification under the Constitution.

More than 50 public hearings have been conducted to voice concerns and opinions from public and involved private enterprises.

Thailand and the EU plan to start the first round of talks early next year.