In a recent article in Australia’s The Guardian, Richard Titelius advocates for protests against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) describing it as an “unequal and barbaric trade pact”. Mr. Titelius has got it all wrong. He’s wrong about what’s good for patients and he’s wrong about the value of multilateral trade agreements.
The article describes government legislation and policy as a “break on the profits of capital” and notes that one manner of accomplishing this is through low or restrictive intellectual property rights (IPRs) for pharmaceutical products. Shouldn’t the focus be on patients, access to care, and new innovative therapies? Restrictive IPRs eliminate the incentives for research on new, innovative medical therapies. Restrictive IPRs ensure that the pipeline of new drugs will run dry, denying patients of future treatments that could enhance and extend life. Patients deserve the hope that new therapies provide, and the healthier future that innovation can make possible. To ensure this, the TPP should include the intellectual property rights that have brought us the drugs of today and will make future innovation a reality.
The article is also questions why the Trans-Pacific Partnership is necessary, arguing that existing Free Trade Agreements should be sufficient. Mr. Titelius doesn’t understand that bilateral trade agreements cannot replace multilateral agreements. The argument is perhaps best explained by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy. In a 2007 speech, he elaborated on the crucial limitations of bilateral agreements. Importantly, Lamy noted that the proliferation of preferential trade agreements may create a web of incoherent rules, greatly complicating world trade. For many small or weak developing nations, multilateral agreements may provide more leverage and stronger negotiating positions relative to bilateral talks. Finally, he notes that it is only in multilateral settings that systemic issues may be addressed and solved, issues such as antidumping, rules of origin, and agricultural subsidies. Countries, consumers and patients all benefit from greater world trade, clear rules, and fewer stumbling blocks. The TPP is an important multilateral step in that direction.
Patients will benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as will the member countries. Protecting intellectual property rights is a critical component and vital to the future treatments that are so desperately needed.