As negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) near completion, word has leaked out that the US Trade Representative for Intellectual Property, Stan McCoy, is engaging in outrageous bullying tactics to ram language through that will enhance and protect the profits of pharmaceutical and other medical corporations. This is no surprise. McCoy was formerly with Covington and Burling, the world’s top law firm when it comes to defending the pharmaceutical industry’s interests.
The recently leaked text of the TPP’s Intellectual Property chapter shows that the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) is seeking to remove all barriers to patents, essentially making it possible to patent and monetize anything, including surgical and therapeutic procedures. The TPP has been criticized by Doctors Without Borders and recently by the AARP for providing extended patents for pharmaceuticals and an “Evergreen” provision which allows patents to be renewed indefinitely.
This would keep the price of medications high and prevent generic equivalents.
Another chapter leaked in June, 2012v revealed that the TPP would also grant pharmaceutical corporations enhanced legal standing to challenge prices set by public health systems such as our own Veterans Administration and Medicaid. The corporations want to include the cost of marketing their products which is a much larger portion of their expense than research and production. Higher prices translate directly to fewer services being provided by public health systems and keeps treatments out of reach of many, especially our most vulnerable people.
TPP negotiations are currently taking place in Salt Lake City, UT. It is believed that this location was chosen because it was believed to be an area without an active social justice community. Much to the Office of the US Trade Representative’s surprise, despite the location and short notice given, protesters were able to organize quickly and have held creative actions every day.
These actions have emboldened negotiators from other countries to stand up to the United States’ demand for policies that will increase profits at a significant cost to the health of people and the planet. In response, the US negotiators have become more aggressive in advancing their agenda.
Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who is monitoring the negotiations, says, “The US has adopted a strategy of exhaustion in its bullying of negotiators on the crucial intellectual property chapter to force countries to trade away health in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations in Salt Lake City.”
“This is a loaded game’, Professor Kelsey said. ‘McCoy sets the agenda and timetable. Negotiators are working from morning until late at night and preparing to work all night, if necessary.” Kelsey reports that “the US has around twenty people in Salt Lake City for the intellectual property chapter, who can rotate. Some countries have only one delegate for crucial talks on intellectual property on medicines. Their negotiations on medicines have been extended beyond the dates that were scheduled before negotiators came. They have continued despite the fact that some health negotiators, especially from poor countries, could not extend their stay.”
The policies that Stan McCoy is trying to strong-arm into the TPP will literally create greater suffering and preventable deaths. This is unconscionable and people from across the United States are calling on McCoy to stop this behavior at once. A petition is circulating that calls on the Office of the US Trade Representative to negotiate in a way that is respectful, democratic and transparent. The American people expect these fundamental principles to be upheld by those in government who negotiate in their name.
So far the negotiations have been just the opposite. There has been unprecedented secrecy and lying.
A spokesperson for the office, Carol Guthrie was quoted in the newspaper during the Salt Lake City meetings describing the negotiations as being conducted with “unprecedented transparency,” yet the text of the agreement has been classified and even members of Congress have restricted access to it. And a recent interim environmental impact statement is so outrageous in its findings that there would be no environmental impact that the USTR has lost all credibility with the people.
A final set of negotiations is scheduled for December 7 to 9 in Singapore. The American people will be anxious to hear if the US Trade Representative staff has changed its approach to negotiations. A growing ‘movement of movements’ in the United States, organizations that advocate for food safety, health, the environment, workers’ rights, internet freedom and more, is pressing the USTR and Congress to scrap the TPP and start over with a trade agreement that actively involves civil society and is open and democratic so that the interests of people and the planet are prioritized ahead of corporate profits.
~ Margaret Flowers MD, Serves as Secretary of Health in the General Welfare Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet