Trade agreements should not be used to undermine TRIPs (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) flexibilities, which provide measures for countries dealing with public health emergencies and epidemics to access life-saving medicines. These flexibilities can be undermined by including provisions in trade agreements that lengthen and strengthen patents or allow for “evergreening” (extending a patent by making minor modifications to the product that do not improve the product, but protect the company holding the patent). (CMAJ, 2013 June 11, Collier).
GRAN encourages the Government of Canada, when negotiating trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership or NAFTA, to avoid the inclusion of these damaging intellectual property provisions. We also express concerns, in our representations to government, about investor-state dispute settlement provisions, which can provide the ability of private corporations to sue national governments if these corporations feel their profits are threatened.
We also ask that draft agreements be subjected to public health assessments before they are signed, to ensure they will not create negative public health or human rights impacts. This is in line with recommendations made by the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel Report on Access to Medicines in 2017.
Our advocacy involves preparing briefs for Standing Committees, writing to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and MPs, and undertaking social media and media outreach efforts.