Trading Away Health: How the U.S.?s Intellectual Property Demands for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Threaten Access to Medicines

White flag with red logo of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) against sunny blue sky

© Valérie Batselaere/MSF

Encompassing eleven countries and slated for further expansion across the Asia Pacific region, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a regional trade agreement that will “set the standard for 21st-century trade agreements going forward.”

The TPP negotiations are being conducted in secret, but leaked drafts of the U.S. negotiating positions show that the U.S. is demanding aggressive intellectual property (IP) provisions that would roll back public health safeguards enshrined in international trade law in favor of offering enhanced patent and data protections to pharmaceutical companies, making it harder to gain access to affordable generic drugs and hindering needed innovation.

If the U.S.’s demands are accepted, the TPP agreement will impose new IP rules that could severely restrict access to affordable, life-saving medicines for millions of people. Billed by President Obama as “a model not just for countries in the Pacific region, but for the world generally,” the TPP will set a damaging precedent with serious implications for developing countries where MSF works, and beyond.