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Protecting health in trade agreements : a challenge to Japan’s role in global health

The new trade agreements entrench the current model of intellectual property monopolies and high prices that do little to provide incentives for innovation to address top global health priorities




Health officials, experts and advocates in the United States, Europe and elsewhere have become a powerful voice opposing new regional trade agreements — the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its European counterpart, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

In Britain, doctors have lobbied against the TTIP warning that it could threaten the country’s National Health Service. In the United States, the public-interest think tank Public Citizen argues that the TPP could jack up the cost of medicines.

International humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres, known as Doctors Without Borders, argues that the TPP would cut the lifeline of affordable medicines that save lives for the millions suffering from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other global diseases.

What has health got to do with trade agreements?

The most contested issue has been the intellectual property provisions that strengthen and lengthen patents, giving pharmaceutical corporations new monopoly rights to charge high prices.

For example, they include provisions that would mandate patenting of new uses of existing medicines (“evergreening”), disallow data from clinical trials to be used in registering generic equivalents, and impose lengthy data exclusivity obligation for biologics. Such measures delay generic competition to pharmaceutical markets and maintain monopoly pricing, adding to the pressure of escalating prices.

The potential consequences on health go well beyond intellectual property and the affordability of medicines.

The wide-ranging measures — state-investor dispute settlement, food safety measures, state enterprises, public procurement and more — impose standards in numerous areas of economic and social policy, reducing the scope of choice policymakers have in formulating national policies to fit their priorities and conditions.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision sets up special tribunals outside of national legal systems for foreign corporations to sue governments for health policy that get in the way of future profits.

Globally, such provisions of new trade agreements could reduce the ability of governments to address some of the most urgent public health priorities of the day.

Escalating prices of branded medicines to treat cancer, Hepatitis C and other widespread life-threatening conditions are straining budgets of governments, insurance companies and households, and leaving many patients without access in low-, middle- and high-income countries.

The new trade agreements entrench the current model of intellectual property monopolies and high prices that do little to provide incentives for innovation to address top global health priorities such as the development of new antibiotics in the face of growing antimicrobial resistance, new global threats such as Zika and emergencies such as Ebola.

Patents do not create an incentive for investing in such diseases because the market would not tolerate high prices.

These are some of the reasons why the U.N. High Level Panel on Access to Medicines was set to remedy the “incoherence” between the right to health and trade agreements.

The report of the panel, of which I was privileged to be a member, released in September recommends future trade agreements should not include patent rights without true innovation and other measures that lengthen monopoly rights. We also recommend countries undertake rigorous health impact assessments in negotiating and signing trade deals.

As the TPP is under debate for approval in Japan, debates have focused on concerns about agriculture, the key issue that has driven controversies about free trade over the 20th century. But times have changed and this 21st-century agreement is less about trade and opening consumer markets than about investments.

The majority of its 30 chapters and multiple annexes set standards in broad areas of economic regulation. These regulations reduce the scope of choice that national governments have in important areas for the national health care system of countries such as in regulating prices, service standards, public hospitals and more.

This is a critical issue for Japan that has one of the most effective health care systems in the world. Former Japan Medical Association President Katsuyuki Haranaka has already cautioned that the TPP could lead to unraveling of the country’s universal health care system.

The national health system has been a core source of strength for the Japanese people and economy, delivering universal coverage with low costs and high-quality service. It was a source not only of the longest life expectancy in the world but also economic dynamism and shared prosperity in the 20th century. A rigorous study of the economic benefits and costs, and the health consequences of the TPP is needed to inform broad public debates before the Diet votes.

(Sakiko Fukuda-Parr is a professor of international affairs at the New School in New York. She is a development economist concerned with global poverty and inequality, exploring these problems from the perspective of human development and human rights.)


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Thai DPM Somkid meets with Japanese Chamber of Commerce

Thai government is pushing forward projects such as the Thailand 4.0 development model and the Eastern Economic Corridor without any changes in key policies, reaffirming the coalition government will ensure a unified economic direction through economic ministers meetings.

National News Bureau of Thailand



JCC Bangkok president meets DPM Somkid

BANGKOK, 5th August 2019 (NNT) – Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has given an assurance to JCC Bangkok president, that Thailand is pursuing key policies including Thailand 4.0 and the EEC project, while the JCC president says Japanese investors are more confident with the Thai economy in H2 2019

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How Asia could be the winner in the US and China’s Belt and Road race

The world’s three largest economies – the US, China and Japan – are actively manoeuvring for economic and geopolitical influence through infrastructure funding




Infrastructure development has become one of the great battlegrounds of our time.

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Hino To establish a development and production base in Thailand

Once the factory begins operation in 2021, Hino will first start off by producing vehicles for the domestic Thai market




Japanese motor Company to push forward with locally led manufacturing of best-fit products to quickly respond to customer needs in close proximity

Under this new setup, Hino will be constructing a new center in Bang Bo, Samutprakarn Province to consolidate and strengthen our product planning, development, and production functions for best-fit products in ASEAN.

The site has an area of roughly 400,000 sqm. Construction is scheduled to begin in July 2019 with operations to begin in 2021.

The new center will consist of the new plant’s production area, and a development area centered around a test track. The total investment amount is expected to be roughly 11.5 billion yen.

Operations to begin in 2021

Once the factory begins operation in 2021, we will first start off by producing vehicles for the domestic Thai market, and expect to begin supplying ASEAN best-fit vehicles to other emerging markets by roughly 2024.

Hino Motors, Ltd. (HQ: Hino City, Tokyo, President & CEO: Yoshio Shimo; hereafter “Hino,”) and Hino Motors Manufacturing Thailand, Ltd. (HQ: Samrong, Samutprakarn Province, President: Somchai Pleankaew; hereafter “HMMT”), our manufacturing company in Thailand, in order to achieve our vision of “Corporate strategy 2025” and enable us to respond to customer needs in close proximity, will be taking steps in Thailand, one of our key centers of operation, to accelerate our efforts to strengthen our business foundation in ASEAN.

By newly appointed Mr. Somchai Pleankaew, who has an exceptional career background with Hino, to president of HMMT, we will be creating an organizational setup that will enable us to drive our business in a locally led manner.

Mr. Somchai Pleankaew, who assumed the office of president of HMMT as of Feb 1 has this to say:
HMMT will put all of our effort to make this project successful in order to enable the growth of our company. Our aim is to serve all customers to their greatest satisfaction by providing the best-fit products and total support customized for each vehicle.

In addition, as a center of Monozukuri, including product planning, development, and production, as well as Total Support in ASEAN, Hino Thailand will collaborate and go forward with Hino in ASEAN in order to grow and strengthen together to support the growth of our customers’ businesses in the ASEAN region.

The Hino Group will be reforming its business structure to achieve sustainable growth leading up to 2025. We position Thailand as one of our key markets for sales in the ASEAN region, our second pillar after the Japanese market. The country is also one of our key business centers and a driver of Monozukuri and Total Support within the region.

The new center to be constructed will consolidate and strengthen our product planning, development, and production functions in Thailand.

New center overview

NameSuvarnabhumi Monozukuri Center
LocationBang Bo, Samutprakarn Province
Site area400,000 sqm
FunctionsProduct planning, development, and production of Hino vehicles
Products producedLight- and medium-duty trucks and buses
Operation startup dateScheduled for 2021
EmployeesApprox. 1,300 (at the time of operation startup)

As a “Monozukuri Center” it will be designed with the capability to commercialize and supply ASEAN best-fit products locally and consistently. In addition to increased coordination between different functions, we will be taking steps in product development to push forward with localization of product development by upgrading organizational setups and constructing a new test track so that we will be able to respond to customer needs quickly and accurately at close customer proximity. In the area of production, the production functions that are currently distributed across existing plants in Thailand will be consolidated at the new center to improve production efficiency.

Furthermore, know-how from the Koga Plant―our global mother plant―will be actively incorporated into the plant to create a system that will enable us to deliver competitive products to our customers in a timely fashion.

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