September 8, 2017
The re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is now underway. As these critical discussions continue, the Government of Canada needs to counter the attempts by the Trump administration to ratchet up further the restrictive rules on intellectual property that create even more monopoly profits for Big Pharma at the expense of people who need affordable medicines. The Ottawa Citizen recently published our analysis and recommendations to the federal government on this issue.
Full details aren’t known yet, but Trump and the US Trade Representative have already publicly stated their objectives for NAFTA discussions include securing measures designed to protect the profits of pharmaceutical companies, whether by delaying the entry of lower-cost generics into the market, or weakening regulations and programs that help manage prices.
The federal government must take steps during the re-negotiation of NAFTA to protect access to medicine — both here in Canada and across the world.
Access to medicine is also threatened by the possible expansion in a new NAFTA of what is called “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS). As originally negotiated, this mechanism in NAFTA gave substantial new powers to corporations. The ISDS rules in deals like NAFTA allow multinational corporations to sue governments before tribunals of three corporate lawyers. These lawyers can order taxpayers to pay the corporations unlimited sums of money, including for the loss of expected future profits. The ISDS rules have been used time and again to undermine regulations aimed at protecting the public good, including in relation to health and the environment.
Now, Big Pharma is trying to extend these rules in a new NAFTA even further, to include their intellectual property privileges. Instead, these ISDS rules should be removed from a new NAFTA altogether.
The Government of Canada must protect Canadians’ access to medicines. The Legal Network has joined with other organizations across North America to call on government representatives, including Members of Parliament, to reject any NAFTA renegotiation or any other agreement that includes ISDS.