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RCEP & intellectual property

An analysis of the leaked IP chapter proposed for the RCEP shows that Japan and South Korea are proposing intellectual property (IP) provisions referred to as TRIPS-plus, which go far beyond the obligations under the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The proposed provisions seek to extend pharmaceutical corporations’ patent terms beyond the usual 20 years and also would require data exclusivity that limits competition. Such provisions are a cause for great concern among public health groups over their potential adverse impact on access to affordable medicines.

RCEP also treats IP as an investment made by investor corporations, allowing private investment disputes (ISDS) to be raised against the host country whenever there is a threat to their IP. Treating IP as an investment, and subjecting it to treaty arbitration, can have undesirable impacts on the hard-bargained flexibilities in IP laws and on public health safeguards that countries like India have earned over the years.

Further, civil society groups have expressed concern about the copyright protection standards proposed under the RCEP IP Chapter which could stifle creativity and free speech.

The leaked IP chapter also pushes for accession by all RCEP member states to the 1991 Act of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 1991), to which only seven of the RCEP negotiating countries are already member. UPOV 1991 provides monopoly rights to plant breeder rights at the cost of farmers’ rights, making it illegal for farmers to save seeds of protected vartieties.

Data exclusivity provisions in the IP chapter may extend the patent protection periods of agrochemical products as well, putting upward pressure on food prices.

RCEP governments must recall their international, regional and national commitments to respect, protect and fulfill the right to health including the right to access affordable medicines. In their quest for greater economic integration, RCEP negotiating countries must not put the lives and health of millions of people in the Asia-Pacific region at risk.


MSF calls on Japan and South Korea to drop the harmful RCEP measures
The intellectual property provisions initiated by Japan and South Korea go far beyond the requirements needed under international trade rules.
MSF press release: RCEP trade deal negotiators must reject terms that would harm access to medicines
International medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), along with other health groups, reiterated concerns about harmful intellectual property provisions in the proposed agreement that would increase market monopolies for pharmaceutical corporations and delay or block access to affordable generic medicines.
MSF statement on RCEP trade negotiations in Kuala Lumpur
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As the 6th round of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement take place in India, people living with HIV are rallying in the streets of New Delhi to warn that harmful intellectual property provisions - put forth by Japan - could severely restrict access to affordable medicines for people in developing countries.
PepsiCo controversy: Globally, India has always refused to give in on IPR on plant varieties
The struggle for farmers’ rights over their seeds and planting materials is not playing out only in India – it’s a global phenomena.
Philippine civil society letter on RCEP & plant variety protection
The undersigned signatories are writing to strongly stress that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations must not place any obligation on the Philippines or any other developing country to join or implement UPOV systems
Pressure intensifies on India over software and pharma patent protection in key Asian trade negotiations
Recently leaked documents show that India’s policies on software and pharmaceutical patents are firmly on the RCEP agenda.
Proposed trade pact clause on intellectual property could endanger India’s TB programme
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RCEP - draft IP chapter (15 Oct 2015 version)
As published by KEI
RCEP - draft IP text from ASEAN (Oct 2014)
As published by KEI