By Donald Zuhn --
Last month, in a letter sent to the U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Michael Froman, five Representatives reiterated the importance of incorporating the 2007 Bipartisan Agreement on Trade Policy into the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The TPP is a multilateral free trade agreement currently being negotiated by Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam (Canada, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan have also expressed interest in participating in the agreement).
The letter, which was signed by Sander Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Committee on Ways and Means; John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary; Jim McDermott (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Ways and Means and Co-Chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus; Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce; and Charles Rangel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Trade of the Committee on Ways and Means, indicated that the Bipartisan Agreement on Trade Policy was aimed at ensuring that developing country free trade agreement partners would be able to achieve an appropriate balance between fostering innovation in, and promoting access to, life-saving medicine. The letter states that "[a] core objective of  changes [arising from the Bipartisan Agreement on Trade Policy] was to ensure that FTA obligations do not put patients in poor countries in a position in which they could have to wait longer than patients in the United States to obtain affordable life saving generic medicines." According to the Representatives, key changes brought about by the Bipartisan Agreement on Trade Policy included the following:
Exclusive marketing rights based on clinical trial data were limited to one five-year period that could run concurrently with such protection in the United States. Granting patent term extensions became optional. Regulatory authorities were given greater freedom to approve generic medicines by having patent disputes resolved through the legal system instead of the drug approval process.
The letter concludes by declaring that "[o]ur trade agreements should not impede our partners in the developing world from access to these medicines."