Public Interest Principles For International IP Negotiations

For some weeks, this blogger has been following with interest various opinions on the wiki-leaked Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) document. The blogger whose interest largely lie in the copyright realm while noting the gravitas of the impact of the Secret trade agreements, firstly on the basis of public interest or lack thereof in the drafting of the agreements. And, the impact of the agreement in by passing the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreements, was unable to link the impact of the TPP to the global south other than the possible copy paste adoption of some provisions by regional trade bodies.
This blogger having being able to attend the 3rd Global Congress on IP and Public Interest in Cape Town last week gained a new perspective of how and why the global south and in particular African countries should keep their ears peaked and get involved in advocacy around the TPP. This perspective was largely brought by the sessions on the access to medicines IP debate which this blogger readily admits is not her area of expertise.
Briefly, the TPP (which is mainly pushing a US based trade agenda) would give pharmaceutical companies longer monopolies over brand name drugs. Companies would be able to charge high prices for longer periods of time. And, it would be much harder for generic companies to produce cheaper drugs. These provisions are found in the intellectual property, investment and pharmaceutical pricing chapters. A more extensive analysis can be found here
Despite the fact that these provisions and the consequences thereof are indeed dire, it seems that at least five countries involved in the negotiations namely Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore have put forth counter proposals, that at least try to present a balanced approach to the needs of developing countries and commercial interest of pharmaceutical firms. The counter proposal is based on ensuring that the standards set in the WTO TRIPS agreement are not overtaken by the TPP agreements.
At the end of the Global Congress a declaration on fundamental public interest principles for international intellectual property negotiations was drafted by the conference attendees which noted the concerns raised at the conference. The main concern was the lack of public involvement in the drafting of these rules, sighting that the main tenant of democratic societies is that law making should occur through procedures that are public, inclusive, transparent and accountable so that law can best reflect the values and consent of the governed.
While this blogger encourages all readers of this post to sign onto this declaration here, she draws large inferences from the manner in which the TPP agreement is being negotiated and the Kenyan governments tabling of media and public benefits organisations bills and the AU cyber security bill with little involvement from the public whom these bills seemingly seek to protect. And wonders whether a similar declaration would be worth circulating in Kenya and perhaps regionally.

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