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’US-Peru FTA could deprive millions of essential drugs’

The Hindu, India

’US-Peru FTA could deprive millions of essential drugs’

14 July 2005

United Nations, July 14 (PTI): With many Peruvians already dying from treatable illness due to difficulties in accessing drugs, a UN human rights expert has expressed "deep concern" that an eventual US-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could deprive millions more of essential drugs made unaffordable by stronger protection of patents.

"I am concerned that the US-Peru free trade negotiations could lead to higher protection of patents than is currently required under the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO)," the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt, said.

"Higher protection of patents could restrict Governments from taking action to protect the right to health in the future," he added in a statement, calling for recognition in any FTA the right and duty of countries to protect human life and health.

"A year ago, I indicated my deep concern that the US-Peru trade agreement would water down internationally agreed health standards, leading to higher prices for essential drugs that millions of Peruvians would find unaffordable. I continue being concerned today as negotiations on key issues draw to a close."

Hunt warned the Peruvian Government of the effects of the FTA on the right to health, in particular through introduction of patent protection stronger than required under WTO rules, and said it should ensure that it can introduce complementary measures to protect the poor from bearing the costs of the FTA.

Over 50 per cent of Peruvians live in poverty, with almost 25 per cent living in extreme poverty.