Trade agreement could hit healthcare budgets

(16 July 2010, Brussels) EPSU and Canadian public service unions have been working together to highlight the potential negative effects of a free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada. Concerns over ‘data exclusivity’ and its impact on healthcare costs was one of the issues raised by a delegation from the Trade Justice Network of Canada in Brussels to meet Members of Parliament, political advisors and assistants in the EP Trade Committee during 4th EU-Canada negotiation round on a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in Brussels from 12-16 July.

Martin Koehler, Advisor on International Trade Green /European free alliance in the European Parliament (left of picture) hosted the exchange on 14 July , and Larry Brown from PSI affiliate NUPGE (centre) and Scott Sinclair (right), trade expert, set out their concerns about the EU-Canada deal. “Data exclusivity” means, amongst other things, that pharmaceutical companies can delay the introduction of generic medicines, thereby pushing up costs for public budgets and for patients. Given that a recent Eurobarometer survey highlighted growing difficulties faced by citizens in paying for healthcare this is extremely worrying. The rights of companies to protect profits in this way comes under what is known as ‘investor protection.’ The EU has new competences in this area (see link below) and is developing policy provisions. EPSU is supporting the Canadian public service unions in highlighting the fact that a full evaluation of the social, environmental and labour impacts of the proposed agreement has never been completed and that greater transparency is needed in the negotiations process. The EP also noted on 5 May that “no thorough impact assessment has been carried out of the social, environmental and economic effects of such a comprehensive economic trade agreement.” A thorough impact assessment of ‘data exclusivity’ implications is needed. EPSU produced with the PSI affiliates in Canada a joint paper (see [>] in English, French and Spanish) on the EU Canada negotiations. Members of the Canadian delegation also met Stephen Hughes MEP (picture below centre), where discussions also covered the issues of trade in asbestos (of which Canada is a substantial exporter). The Canadian delegation included: Larry Brown, Secretary-Treasurer, National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) Scott Sinclair, trade expert from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) Stuart Trew, Brent Patterson and Meera Karunananthan, Council of Canadians

EC investment protection package see [>]
European Parliament resolution resolution of 5 May 2010 on the upcoming EU-Canada Summit on 5 May 2010 [>]
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