Brussels, 7 February 2012 - Supporting the ongoing Global Week of Action on the EU-India FTA, Pauline Londeix of Act Up-Paris today confronted the European Commission for Trade, Karel de Gucht at a “Civil Society dialogue on Trade, Growth and development” at the European Commission. De Gucht reportedly leaves for India tomorrow for the EU-India Summit on 10th February 2012 where the E.C. is putting pressure on the Indian government to announce political trade-offs in the EU-India FTA.
At the meeting, De Gucht’s general presentation spoke of the desire of the European Commission to promote “ethical trade.” With a focus on Least Developed Countries (LDCs), De Gucht stated that the E.C. wants to offer the poorest countries free access to the european market. He added that he wants the E.C. keeping focusing on developing bilateral deals and also multilateral. As bilateral he said that some deals were already concluded (with Colombia, Peru, Ukraine) and some others had already started (incl. with India, Malaysia, Singapore).
Mr. De Gucht did not specify what these poor countries would have to give the E.C. in return. The Indian government has learnt this in the past four years. Leaked negotiation text shows that in exchange for opening the E.C. market for Indian companies, the European Commission wants India to undermine the health safeguards in its patent law that allow the production and supply of generic medicines from India to the developing world. Over 80% of those on HIV treatment in developing countries are on Indian made generic medicines.
On being questioned on the impact of the trade policies of the E.C. like the EU-India FTA and ACTA on access to medicines, De Gucht’s reply was to state, once again, that the FTA would not impact access to medicines. He stated that the EC was no longer pursuing patent term extention and data exclusivity.
However he failed to respond to concerns on the impact of IP enforcement on access to medicines. Referring to the IP enforcement provisions in the EU-India FTA and ACTA, de Gucht said that he personally believes that border measures are necessary to control fake medicines. He asked if groups were concerned with the fake medicines that were killing people.
Despite clear evidence and analysis from multiple health groups showing that ACTA has nothing to do with dealing with the problem of fake medicines and in fact will limit access to generic medicines, Karel De Gucht continues to promote the idea that ACTA will deal with fake medicines.
De Gucht also stated that he was not ‘impressed’ by the campaigns against ACTA. On copyright issues he said that we need to control who can have access to certain content, that this is just similar to prevent theft in a supermarket.
As a conclusion he said that “they are really trying to do the best for LDCs”.
Mr. De Gucht’s response to Act Up-Paris on the border measures in the EU-India FTA and ACTA are a cause for great concern. It appears that the EC has not taken seriously the impact of the multiple seizures of generic medicines by European Customs authorities including of HIV medicines that were on their way from India to Africa. The E.C is also pushing India to adopt investment rules in the EU-India FTA that would allow European multinational companies to sue the Indian government in private international arbitration for any pro-health policies it undertakes such as price controls, tobacco warning on cigarette packets, etc.
“Act Up-Paris strongly opposes these provisions in the EU-India FTA. India is the lifeline of millions in the developing world – including the LDCs that Mr. de Gucht claims he wants to help,” said Pauline Londeix of Act Up-Paris. “Mr de Gucht and the European Commission seem intent on promoting only the interests of multinational corporations. The E.C’s dangerous trade policies must stop immediately. Too many lives are at risk,” she said.
Act Up-Paris’ Question to Karel de Gucht
"Mr De Gucht,
I represent Act Up-Paris, an organisation of people living with HIV based in France. But today, I bring you a message from hundreds of groups worldwide that have signed a call of action to denounce the European Commission’s deadly trade policy. For four years you have negotiated a bilateral agreement with India, for three years you negotiated ACTA in a total lack of transparency.
You have repeatedly stated that these agreements will not affect affordable medicines.
Starting on Friday, you will represent E.C during a summit in India. How can you claim that data exclusivity will not have an impact when the European Parliament itself has asked that this provision not be put in an FTA with developing countries?
How can you state that ACTA and the enforcement provisions in the EU-India FTA will not affect medicines when European customs authorities continue to seize generic medicines in transit, like it happened again last November?
How can you ask India to implement TRIPS-plus provisions and state these will not affect access to medicines when the United Nations, the WHO, UNITAID, the Global Fund, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health have all condemned these provisions for affecting treatment.
The statements of the European Commission have always been vague and aimed at confusing the citizens of Europe and millions of people in need to treatment worldwide. But they are not fooling anyone.
The European Commission speaks only for the profits of a few companies and not for the lives of millions across the world. Your FTA only aims at strengthening pharmaceutical companies monopolies. While the consequences for firms will be more profits, in the real world many people will die because they will not have access to treatments because of their price.
Across Asia, Latin America and Africa protests against the European Union are taking place. Yesterday in London, last Friday in Nepal, AIDS activists asked you to stop this policy that will take peoples’ lives. We ask you to stop this deadly trade policy."
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