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US seeks drug patent extension
Publication Date : 27-07-2013
The United States, which is home to many global pharmaceutical companies, called for extending patent terms for new drugs during negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The 18th round of the TPP talks ended Thursday in Malaysia, with Japan making its debut as the 12th official member.
While emerging economies such as Malaysia have strongly opposed the US request, Japan, which has been promoting the use of more affordable generic drugs to cut health care costs, has taken a cautious stance, the sources said.
The drug patent issue is likely to become a focus of future TPP negotiations.
The next round of the TPP talks is scheduled to be held in Brunei on August 22-30.
Japan has set the duration of a patent right for up to 25 years. The United States called on Japan for patent extensions during preliminary bilateral talks held ahead of Japan’s entry into TPP negotiations, one source said, adding that Washington has already made such requests to other countries participating in the TPP talks.
The United States is apparently concerned that a shorter patent rights period could discourage pharmaceutical companies from developing new drugs, eventually leading to adverse effects.
However, Malaysia and other TPP countries that rely on generic drugs have raised their guard, as patent period extensions could delay the marketing of generic drugs and negatively affect low-income earners at home and abroad.
In TPP negotiations on the environment, some countries, including the United States and Australia, are seeking cuts to fishery subsidies to prevent the depletion of marine resources due to overfishing, it has been learned.
Japan intends to demand that only subsidies leading to overfishing be banned, one source said. However, this could be challenged in future negotiations.
In a statement issued after the end of the latest round of TPP talks, negotiating countries welcomed Japan’s entry, saying the nation “participated actively in the work of the negotiating groups that were meeting on those dates, expressing its commitment to quickly and smoothly integrate into the process.”
“With Japan’s entry, TPP countries now account for nearly 40 percent of global gross domestic product, and about one-third of all world trade,” the statement added.
Thirteen working groups covering areas such as market access, investment and financial services conducted negotiations in the 18th round, which started July 15, and agreed on detailed plans for making progress.
As the groups have faced technical issues concerning intellectual property, the environment and state-backed companies, they intend to look into various options to address the issues, according to the statement.
At a joint press conference following the end of the TPP talks Thursday, J. Jayasiri, Malaysia’s chief negotiator, said most of the working groups have made solid progress in resolving the differences.