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Council of Canadians: Talks resume on trade agreement that could harm innovation and online privacy

The latest round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership are underway this week, with lobbyists and corporate advisers making decisions on ways to regulate and restrict our Internet use. The TPP's regressive approach to intellectual property is shrouded in secrecy and only made available to 600 or so industry representatives. Even Canada won't have a say in the negotiating process until they are formally admitted to talks in December. Join our campaign to share your comments with negotiators and let's push to make the TPP text available to citizens worldwide. Article by Stuart Trew for The Council of Canadians A 14th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade and investment negotiations begins in Virginia, U.S.A. today as scorn for the agreement’s proposed intellectual property chapter piles up. To be fair, that scorn is almost entirely aimed at the United States’ positions on patent and other monopoly protections for pharmaceutical firms, as well as on copyright and internet rules, which civil society observers and even other TPP negotiating countries see as regressive, unnecessary, dangerous to public health and harmful of online privacy and innovation.

Today, Amnesty International issued a statement saying the TPP “must ensure that any new rules on copyright and patents adhere to core principles of transparency and uphold human rights.” The human rights organization explained that the TPP looks too much like ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, rejected in a vote this summer by the European Parliament) in that it “neglects protections for fair use and standard judicial guarantees — such as the presumption of innocence — and includes copyright provisions that could compromise free speech on the internet and access to educational materials.”

“Moreover,” continues Amnesty’s statement, “draft TPP provisions related to patents for pharmaceuticals risk stifling the development and production of generic medicines, by strengthening and deepening monopoly protections.”

An article this week in the journal Nature explains the ways U.S. proposals on patents would affect drug costs and access to medicines in developing countries. First, they would force U.S.-style patent term extension onto other TPP countries, meaning the WTO-required 20-year patent term would automatically be lengthened by however long it took the pharmaceutical company to get approval for the drug. The TPP proposals would also pressure countries to recognize patents for marginally different, or “me too” drugs that are more expensive but offer no benefits beyond what cheaper generics can provide.

The Nature piece also explains the U.S. is considering asking TPP countries to accept 12 years of data protection for biologic drugs, based on large biological molecules, and to allow the patenting of plants and animals. In the first instance, this will make it much more difficult for smaller or generic firms to compete by locking away clinical trial data for 12 years. There could also be new rules in the TPP affecting how countries price drugs which would make it difficult for New Zealand to favour generics wherever possible as is the current practice, and as Canadian provinces are beginning to explore. Read more »

Read more at The Council of Canadians

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