The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Intellectual Property Protection, and Access to Medicines Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The inclusion of elevated standards of intellectual property (IP) protection in the recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement has raised serious public health concerns regarding access to medicines. A lesser-known trade agreement under negotiation in the Asia-Pacific region is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Framed as an attempt to reassert ASEAN's position in response to the United States-led TPP, RCEP includes key players China and India as well as several low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Leaked drafts of IP provisions proposed by Japan and South Korea raise similar concerns in the Asia-Pacific region. This article identifies TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement)-Plus provisions in leaked negotiating texts and examines their implications for LMICs that are not also parties to the TPP: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, China, and India. We find that higher levels of IP protection delay the market entry of generic medicines, giving rise to increased costs to governments and reduced access to essential medicines. The article concludes that the public health community should recognize risks inherent in trade agreements that promote expansions of IP rights and engage with governments to ensure that public health is adequately and explicitly protected in trade and investment negotiations.

publication date

  • 2016