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International NGO solidarity statement: US-Thai free trade negotiations

International NGO Solidarity Statement:

US-Thai Free Trade Negotiations
Threaten Access to Medicines

Activists Demand Suspension of Negotiations
and End to TRIPS-plus IP Provisions

Jan. 9, 2006. Thai AIDS activists and their international allies are
seeking suspension of scheduled trade talks that threaten to undermine
Thailand’s lawful ability to produce, import/export, and market low-cost
generic versions of life-saving medicines. Today, in Chiang Mai, the
United States and Thailand are scheduled to start the Sixth Round of
negotiations on a proposed Free Trade Agreement and for the first time are
holding discussions on a U.S. proposal to dramatically increase
intellectual property protections for pharmaceutical products.
Simultaneously, ten thousand Thai activists, half of them living with HIV,
are protesting the scheduled talks and trying to shut them down, promising
to sleep overnight outside the meeting venue for three nights and to block
entry to the negotiations.

The U.S. government has consistently refused to release the draft text of
its FTA proposals and simultaneously extracts promises of secrecy from its
negotiating partners. This shroud of secrecy limits democratic review and
civil society participation in the negotiation process. In particular, it
denies voice to the tens of thousands of Thais living with HIV/AIDS who
need increased access to affordable second-generation antiretroviral and
opportunistic infection medicines that are currently patent-protected and
cost prohibitive.

Instead of allowing Thailand to use all existing flexibilities for
accessing cheaper medicines under international law as confirmed by the
2001 WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health and by
the UN Commission on Human Rights, the U.S., based on past practice, will
be seeking to heighten patent and data protection in the following ways:

- Extending patent terms beyond 20 years to compensate for
administrative delays and easing standards of patentability on new
formulations and uses, thereby extending the period of monopoly pricing;
- Restricting rights to parallel import cheaper medicines by
codifying patent-holders’ rights to contractually limit export/import of
previously sold products;
- Potentially restricting the grounds for issuing compulsory
licenses;
- Linking marketing approval to the absence of claimed patent
rights and imposing 5-10 year data-exclusivity provisions (preventing
reliance on proprietors’ clinical trial data to grant marketing approval
for generic products), thereby potentially restricting compulsory
licensing rights;
- Imposing criminal penalties on companies that intentionally or
inadvertently violate patents.

The U.S. attempts to down-play the significance of these hard-text treaty
terms with an ambiguous and under-inclusive "side-letter" reaffirming
trade partners’ rights to prioritize access to medicines. Such
side-letters make no binding commitments, and the USTR has expressly
declined to confirm the obligatory effect of the letters when asked to do
so in response to Congressional inquiries.

Consistent with human rights norms requiring access to essential medicines
and in response to Thai activist demands, Thailand has initiated a program
of universal access to government-subsidized antiretroviral drugs that now
reaches 70,000 of 170,000 Thai people living with HIV/AIDS. However, the
future costs of expanded treatment with newer patented medicines will be
prohibitive if the U.S. succeeds in its objectives to ratchet-up
intellectual property protections.

Therefore, we join our Thai colleagues at Chiang Mai and throughout
Thailand demanding that the U.S. suspend negotiations on intellectual
property rights and that it drop all intellectual property provisions
affecting access to pharmaceutical products, specifically all TRIPS-plus
terms, in the Thai FTA
and in other FTAs as well. In addition, we demand that the U.S. publish
its proposed text for the entire FTA and that the Thai people have had a
chance to hold public consultations on the proposed agreement.

Signed,

50 Years is Enough Network
ACT UP East Bay, USA
ACT UP Philadelphia, USA
ActionAid International, USA
AIDS Foundation of Chicago, USA
American Jewish World Service, USA
Australian Women’s Health Movement, Australia
Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, USA
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Canada
Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health, USA
Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP), USA
Consumer Project on Technology, USA
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Egypt Essential Action, USA
European AIDS Treatment Action Group (EATG)
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
Zimbabwe Global AIDS Alliance, USA
Globalization and Health Project
Centre for Governance of Knowledge and Development Harm Reduction Coalition, USA
Health Action International
Asian Pacific Health Connections International, The Netherlands
Health GAP (Global Access Project), USA
Health Rights Action Group
Uganda Human Rights Watch, USA
International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW)
Mobilization for Global Justice, USA
Our Bodies, Ourselves, USA
Oxfam America, USA
People’s Health Movement, USA
Public Citizen, USA
Public Health Association of Australia, Australia
San Francisco Tobacco Free Coalition, USA
Saniplan.org, USA
Soropositividade, Comunicação e Gênero (GESTOS), Brazil
Southern Initiatives, India
Student Global AIDS Campaign, USA
Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group, Thailand
The Global Network of People with AIDS (GNP+), The Netherlands
Third World Network, Malaysia
Uganda Treatment Access Movement, Uganda
Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, USA


+++Call to Action+++

SOLIDARITY Action: Join 10,000 in Thailand => Access to AIDS Drugs over
Free Trade!

===============
Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) Washington DC at 17th & F
Sts, NW) WEDNESDAY January 1 at 1 PM

International Fax-Action
ALL WEEK: Fax US Trade Officials Victoria Espinel, Acting Assistant USTR
for Intellectual Property +1 202.395.3891 and Barabara Weisel, Assistant
U.S.
Trade Representative for Asia-Pacific and Pharmaceutical Policy at
+1 202.395.9515 (see below).
===============

For the week of January 9, the US and Thai governments will be meeting in
Chaing Mai, Thailand to negotiate intellectual property provisions for the
U.S.-Thai free trade agreement. The agreement promises to make
multinational drug companies big profits while threatening Thai peoples’
affordable access to AIDS drugs and other essential medicines.

10,000 Thai activists, over half of them living with HIV and AIDS, will be
taking to the streets demanding a halt to the negotiations until their
voices are heard and life-threatening provisions are taken off the table.
In DC we will join with them.

Please join activists from HEALTH GAP, the MOBILIZATION FOR GLOBAL
JUSTICE, STUDENT GLOBAL AIDS CAMPAIGN, and other groups who will engage in
a dramatic visual protest to demand that USTR value life and access to
medicines over profit.

WEDNESDAY @ 1pm at the office of the US Trade Representative, at the
corner of 17th St & F St. NW (near Farragut West & Farragut North Metro)

===============
Coming? Email Matt (matthew@riseup.net) or call 202.296.6727x224 so we
can involve you in a simple bit of street theater!

===============
Can’t come? Send a fax (many is better) to US Trade Officials Victoria
Espinel, Acting Assistant USTR for Intellectual Property at +1
202.395.3891 and Barabara Weisel, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for
Asia-Pacific and Pharmaceutical Policy at +1 202.395.9515
===============

Tell them: "Halt the US-Thai negotiations until activist voices are
involved and intellectual property provisions that put profit over people
are removed!" Fax your local US Embassy, too.


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