Southern African countries have taken firm stand against EFTA demands on intellectual property rights in free trade agreement

Berne Declaration

Press Release, 4th March 2005

Southern African countries have taken a firm stand against EFTA demands on Intellectual Property Rights in Free Trade Agreement

A letter sent by South African Trade Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa to the
Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa confirms, that the demand of
EFTA Countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to
include provisions on Intellectual Property Rights relating to medicines
and agriculture in the Free Trade Agreement with SACU (South Africa,
Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland) has been rejected.

Last November a coalition of 57 organizations sent a letter* to the
trade and foreign ministers of EFTA member states, urging them not to
include provisions that would restrict access to medicines and farmers
rights in the free trade agreement under negotiation with SACU. The same
letter has been sent to the SACU Ministers.

The organizations have now been informed by the South African Trade
Minister, Mandisi Mpahlwa that the SACU negotiators have taken a firm
stand against EFTA demands on Intellectual Property Rights, which would
have gone beyond the obligations under the WTO TRIPS Agreement (so
called TRIPS-plus provisions):

"South Africa’s approach to trade negotiations is to always seek the best possible benefits for the country and for SACU in all areas under negotiation.

"As SACU and
EFTA have not been able to arrive at mutually beneficial outcomes in our
IPR discussions, we have agreed to suspend negotiating any substantive
commitments in this area.

As a result the final agreement will contain
none of the IPR obligations referred to in your letter."

The coalition of NGOs congratulates the SACU ministers for saying "No!"
to TRIPS-plus provisions, which would have had lasting and negative
consequences on public health and food security in Southern Africa. The
SACU position is an example for other developing countries which are
faced by the same demands.

Developing countries like the SACU states face huge challenges to
achieve food security and optimal health care for their population.
Therefore they need to keep sufficient freedom to adjust their
intellectual property system to their needs. Civil society organizations
in EFTA and SACU Countries urges their Ministers to set aside clauses
about Intellectual Property Rights in all future Free Trade Agreements
they negotiate with other partners.

* The letter is available at


South Africa:
- Njogu Morgan , Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Tel: +27 11 339 8423
- Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss , Biowatch, Tel: +27 22 492 3426

- Fran├žois Meienberg, Berne Declaration (agriculture), Tel: +41 (0) 1 277
70 04
- Julien Reinhard; Berne Declaration (health), Tel: +41 (0) 21 620 03 06

- Bell Batta Torheim, Genesis, Tel: +47 41 1234 04

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