The Sun Daily | 7 August 2012
Malaysia says no to TPP
Azizul Rahman Ismail
KUALA LUMPUR (August 6, 2012): Malaysia is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) which seeks to extend the patent periods of medicines by foreign companies.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the agreement, which is being negotiated among eleven countries including the US and Malaysia, would be detrimental to the local medical industry.
"We are against the patent extension. According to the agreement, if a medicine is launched in the US, and then three years later it is launched in Malaysia, the patent would start from when it is launched here and not when it was launched earlier in the US," said Liow. "This is not fair."
He stressed that the agreement would in effect make healthcare less affordable to the public.
Liow said this to reporters after launching Project WATTS (Where Aid Turns To Sustainability), an environmentally focused charity campaign by The Truly Loving Company Sdn Bhd here today.
The TPP is a multilateral free trade agreement intended to further liberalise economies in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, it has reportedly drawn criticisms and protests in part due to the secrecy of the negotiations and a number of controversial clauses in draft agreements that have been leaked to the public.
Parties that have studied the leaks claim that the US is demanding aggressive intellectual property provisions that go beyond what international trade law requires.
A key point of contention by Malaysia is that the existing patents on medicines would be extended for another five to 10 years or more, on top of the current requirement of 20 years.
The patent extension means generic companies would not be able to produce more affordable generic drugs during this period.
Liow also stressed that a company should not be given the power to sue a government due to its state policies.
Under the agreement, investors can claim compensation from governments on the grounds that a new regulation has adversely affected their investments.
The other nine member countries of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership are Brunei, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Mexico and Canada.
Non-governmental organisations in Malaysia had at a forum on Saturday expressed reservations about the TPP.
They include the Malaysian AIDS Council, Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia and the Third World Network.
Liow added that his ministry is working to make hospitals more energy efficient and thus more environmentally friendly and economical.
"There are 28 general hospitals in Malaysia and their electricity bills alone come up to RM115 million (annually)," he said. "We hope by replacing, among others, light bulbs and air-conditioners in these hospitals and specialist centres with ones that are more energy-efficient, we can see a minimum saving of 10% next year."
He explained that the project will start in the Klang Valley and a saving of 3% is expected to be achieved by the end of the year.