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TPP: MSF open letter to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

As the final round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations take place in Hawaii, MSF urges negotiating countries to reject provisions that threaten to restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people. The following letter was sent to heads of governments, ministers of health and TPP lead negotiators for all countries currently involved in TPP, including Japan.

For more information, please visit our Spotlight on TPP.

Dear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,

We are writing on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to express our deep concern over provisions under negotiation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that threaten to restrict access to affordable medicine for millions of patients in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

MSF is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that delivers medical care to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare in nearly 70 countries. Our ambition to provide quality health care to these populations requires constant access to affordable, quality medicines and vaccines, and patient-focused innovation.

In July 2013, MSF sent an open letter to all heads of government, Ministers of Health and lead negotiators for countries involved in the TPP negotiations expressing our concerns that the TPP could be the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines. Despite our numerous attempts to engage constructively on this issue, our concerns remain largely unaddressed.

The ongoing TPP negotiations have been conducted in secret, without opportunity for public scrutiny. However, negotiating texts available in the public domain indicate that the United States is proposing harmful intellectual property (IP) provisions. These demands, summarized in an annex to this letter, would roll back public health safeguards and flexibilities enshrined in international and national laws, and put in place far-reaching monopoly protections that will restrict generic competition and keep medicine prices unaffordable in the long run.

We believe this presents a direct threat to the future availability of affordable medicines and MSF is concerned that the Government of Japan is supporting some of the most harmful provisions, a decision that will have potentially devastating impact for vulnerable patients in the whole Asia-Pacific region. We are also concerned that the TPP, billed as a ‘21st century model trade agreement’, could become a global standard, with worldwide damaging repercussions for access to treatment.

Moreover, the current biomedical innovation system often fails to deliver affordable and needs-based medical tools for many of our medical operations. Promoting longer monopolies through the TPP is unlikely to change this and may in fact create further dysfunction in the research and development system.

The Government of Japan has the opportunity to protect the health of vulnerable patients in the Asia-Pacific region by rejecting the proposals of the United States and by introducing global norms which reaffirm a public health imperative and promote balanced implementation of current IP obligations.

We urge the Government of Japan to strongly consider the impact of the TPP on patients in the Asia-Pacific region and to show leadership in promoting public health in the region by placing access to affordable lifesaving medicines in developing countries at the heart of Japan’s trade policies, which involves not exceeding minimum obligations that countries must abide by under global trade rules.

Thank you for your attention. We are available to discuss these issues further at your convenience.

Sincerely,

Jeremie Bodin
Executive Director, MSF Japan
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders

Dr. Manica Balasegaram
Executive Director, MSF Access Campaign
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders

C.C. :
Koji Tsuruoka, Chief Negotiator TPP
Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare
Yoichi Miyazawa, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

Page updated: 22 July 2015
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