NEW YORK—As negotiators hold closed-door meetings in Manhattan this week over a secretive trade deal that could affect the health of half a billion people, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) took its protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the skies Wednesday, flying an aerial banner that read “Doctors to Obama: Keep #TPP Away From Our Medicines” along the Hudson River.
The aerial protest seeks to bring attention to the TPP, a 12-country trade agreement, which, if signed in its current form, will be devastating to people who rely on access to affordable generic medicines, both in developing countries and in the US. The banner will fly again over New York City on January 29 and 30, from 1:30 to 3:00 PM.
“The US government is advocating for trade terms that could restrict access to generic medicines, and make lifesaving treatments unaffordable for millions,” said Jason Cone, communications director at the MSF-USA. “President Obama needs to know that if harmful provisions in the TPP agreement are not removed, this trade deal will have a real cost in human lives.”
Damaging intellectual property rules in the TPP would give pharmaceutical companies longer monopolies over brand name drugs, enabling them to charge high prices for lifesaving drugs for longer periods of time. The intellectual property rules would also make it much harder for generic companies to produce cheaper drugs.
While Doctors Without Borders and other civil society groups have been excluded from official TPP negotiations for years, industry groups representing various multinational corporations have had the opportunity to read the text and suggest revisions.
In the coming weeks, the US Congress could vote to renew “fast track” authority on the TPP, which would allow the agreement to be put to an “up or down” vote without revision.
Renewal of fast track authority without major revisions of the intellectual property chapter, will all but ensure that these damaging provisions remain in the text, said MSF.
“The TPP is the most damaging trade agreement we have ever seen in terms of access to medicines for poor people in all the countries included,”said Cone. “With the US government publicly stating that these negotiations are winding down, it is now more urgent than ever that our concerns on access to medicines be addressed and that these harmful provisions be removed."
The TPP protest banner will be flown again on January 29 and 30, from 1:30 to 3 pm.
The banner will depart Central Jersey Regional Airport in Hillsborough, NJ at 12:15 PM, heading east to New York City past the Driscol Bridge, over the Outerbridge, across Staten Island past the Verrazano Bridge, north past Brooklyn to the Statue of Liberty, and then up to Battery Park by 1:30, continuing up to the Boat Basin on W. 79th street.