Activists slam EU-India Free Trade Agreement

February 10th, 2012 - 8:29 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 10 (IANS) Activists from several NGOs Friday accused the European Union (EU) of using India to bail out itself from its current economic crisis and protested the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) currently under negotiation between the two.

Arguing that the FTA would adversely affect the Indian pharmaceutical, agricultural and many other sectors, the activists termed the negotiations as secret and undemocratic, citing leaked texts from the EU.

“The harmful provisions in the agreement could have a severely negative impact on access to affordable medicine for people in developing countries. Whether we get to live or die should not be up to trade negotiators,” said Mundrika Gahlot of the Delhi Network of Positive People.

“We’re all here today with one clear message to India and the EU: Don’t trade away our lives,” added Gahlot.

According to activists, India has been called the “pharmacy of the developing world” because it produces quality affordable medicines that governments, UN agencies and the international medical humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) rely on for the treatment of millions of people.

Due to competition among medicine producers in India, the price of first-line HIV medicines has dropped by more than 99 percent, from $10,000 per person per year in 2000 to roughly $150 today, said Shailly Gupta of MSF.

This significant price decrease has supported the massive expansion of HIV treatment worldwide.

However, existing trade rules already limit the possibility of making generic versions of new medicines, but the EU-India FTA threatens to make this situation even worse, by creating new Intellectual Property (IP) barriers.

According to Anand Grover, the director of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit, the EU wants India to agree to IP enforcement measures that could block medicines at Indian ports on their way to patients in other developing countries, and could even draw treatment providers into court proceedings.

“Several IP measures will affect the production, registration and distribution of affordable medicines. The EU is just using India to save itself from the economic crisis it is going through,” said activist Kanwaljit Singh.

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