The protests took place as the 6th round of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement is held in India.

Started in May 2013, the RCEP is being negotiated between the 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

The third meeting of the RCEP Working Group on IP (WGIP) is on this week's agenda, and negotiators are meeting to discuss intellectual property provisions.

"As countries are putting forth their own proposals for intellectual property chapter in the RCEP, we are worried that US-style IP provisions have been tabled that would roll back public health safeguards enshrined in international law and in India's patent law," said Anand Grover, Director of the Lawyers Collective.
     
Japan, a key participant in the TPP agreement negotiations, is now closely allying with the US in pushing "extremely stringent IP standards" that undermine and delay access to affordable generic medicines.      

The leaked text of a proposal put forth by the government of Japan to the Working Group on IP – called the Elements Paper – includes harmful intellectual property provisions such as patent term extensions, data exclusivity and lowering of the patentability criteria, which serve to extend monopoly protection beyond what is required by international agreements.

"The right to life and health of people in developing countries is at stake in this deal. We want public assurances from the new Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, that any intellectual property provisions that would restrict generic competition and access to medicines will be taken off the table by India," said Loon Gangte, International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), South Asia.

The RCEP could end up restricting access to life-saving medicines for millions in developing countries by targeting generic competition in India.

Unless damaging IP provisions are removed by countries like India before negotiations are finalized, the RCEP agreement – like the TPP - is on track to become one of the most harmful free trade agreements ever for access to medicines in developing countries, Langte said.

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