The TPP may endanger world health, newly leaked chapter shows

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WikileaksWik­iLeaks on Thurs­day pub­lished an updat­ed ver­sion of the nego­ti­at­ing texts of a con­tro­ver­sial and high­ly secre­tive trade agree­ment between the Unit­ed States and 11 oth­er mem­ber nations.

Crit­ics warn that the inter­na­tion­al agree­ment, dubbed the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship (TPP), pro­pos­es sweep­ing changes to intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty norms that would sti­fle free­dom of expres­sion online and impose harsh monop­oly rights on new drugs, vac­cines, and agri­cul­tur­al products.

While most inter­na­tion­al trade nego­ti­a­tions involve a good deal of secre­cy, con­tro­ver­sy enveloped the TPP when hun­dreds of cor­po­rate advi­sors were giv­en access to the texts, even as the pub­lic and mem­bers of Con­gress were being kept in the dark. The nego­ti­at­ing texts of the TPP’s intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty chap­ter, dat­ed August 2013, were pub­lished by Wik­iLeaks last fall. The updat­ed 77-page ver­sion, now avail­able on WikiLeaks’s web­site, orig­i­nates from the Ho Chi Minh nego­ti­a­tions held May 2014.

Over­all, the Oba­ma administration’s con­tin­ued efforts to seem­ing­ly put first the inter­ests of indus­try lob­by­ists, while block­ing jour­nal­ists and pub­lic advo­cates from observ­ing the nego­ti­a­tions, appears immune from the wide­spread crit­i­cism that result­ed from the ini­tial leak last November.

Some of the most-crit­i­cized pas­sages are, how­ev­er, now absent from the leaked ver­sion of the texts. Wik­iLeaks notes, for exam­ple, that sur­gi­cal method patents had been removed. “Doc­tors’ groups said this was vital­ly impor­tant for allow­ing doc­tors to engage in med­ical pro­ce­dures with­out fear of a law­suit for pro­vid­ing the best care for their patients,” the orga­ni­za­tion said.

Fore­see­able delays in the dis­tri­b­u­tion of life­sav­ing med­ica­tions is among the chief con­cerns raised by TPP’s crit­ics. Accord­ing to Pub­lic Cit­i­zen, a non­prof­it group that exam­ined the texts in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Wik­iLeaks, “Access to afford­able can­cer treat­ments in the U.S and 11 oth­er coun­tries would be delayed for years if terms revealed today in the leaked [TPP draft] were to go into effect.”

Near­ly all of the changes pro­posed by the U.S. advan­tage cor­po­rate enti­ties by expand­ing monop­o­lies on knowl­edge goods, such as drug patents, and impose restric­tive copy­right poli­cies world­wide. If it came into force, TPP would even allow phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies to sue the U.S. when­ev­er changes to reg­u­la­to­ry stan­dards or judi­cial deci­sions affect­ed their profits.

Pro­fes­sor Brook K. Bak­er of North­east­ern Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law told the Dai­ly Dot that the lat­est ver­sion of the TPP will do noth­ing less than length­en, broad­en, and strength­en patent monop­o­lies on vital medications.

Pro­posed lan­guage makes it eas­i­er to get suc­ces­sive, sec­ondary patents on minor changes to or new uses of exist­ing med­i­cines and patent term exten­sions that increase pric­ing dis­cre­tion and monop­oly prof­its on vital med­i­cines, but at the cost of reduced access to poor and unin­sured patients,” said Bak­er, a senior pol­i­cy ana­lyst for Health GAP (Glob­al Access Project).

More­over, Bak­er said that while the neg­a­tive effects of the IP pro­vi­sions of the TPP would be most acute in poor­er coun­tries, the trade agree­ment would also tie the hands of pol­i­cy mak­ers in the U.S., as sev­er­al of the pro­vi­sions will require manda­to­ry changes to U.S. law.

One pro­pos­al seen for the first time in the lat­est TPP draft con­cerns the use of bio­log­i­cal med­ical prod­ucts, or bio­log­ics, which are med­i­c­i­nal treat­ments derived from bio­log­i­cal sources and include many new can­cer treat­ments and vaccines.

Pub­lic health sys­tems in many coun­tries can­not afford the $100k-plus price tags on most of these new can­cer drugs, cer­tain­ly most peo­ple world­wide can­not afford them on their own,” Pub­lic Citizen’s Peter May­bar­duk, direc­tor of Glob­al Access to Med­i­cines Pro­gram, told the Dai­ly Dot. “This means that peo­ple in need of treat­ment will suf­fer and, in too many cas­es, die, until afford­able biosim­i­lars can be brought to market.”

Addi­tion­al­ly, rights groups such as Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion (EFF) have tak­en issue with an adden­dum that would impose a legal oblig­a­tion on Inter­net ser­vice providers (ISPs) to mon­i­tor the online activ­i­ties of their cus­tomers for copy­right infringe­ment. ISPs would be fur­ther required to remove from the Inter­net con­tent sus­pect­ed of infring­ing copy­right and retain the infor­ma­tion of users who post said con­tent. Accord­ing to EFF, this would require mem­ber nations to adopt crim­i­nal sanc­tions for infringe­ment that is done with­out a com­mer­cial motivation.

The selec­tive secre­cy sur­round­ing the TPP nego­ti­a­tions, which has let in a few cashed-up mega­corps but exclud­ed every­one else, reveals a telling fear of pub­lic scruti­ny,” Julian Assange, Wik­iLeaks founder and edi­tor-in-chief, said on Thurs­day. “By pub­lish­ing this text we allow the pub­lic to engage in issues that will have such a fun­da­men­tal impact on their lives.”