Monday, 26 August 2013

UNIDO, UNCTAD help Viet Nam’s pharmaceutical sector ready for Trans-Pacific Partnership

HANOI, 26 August 2013 – The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in collaboration with the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Vietnamese counterparts, recently organized two workshops on local pharmaceutical production and intellectual property.

The workshops, organized together with the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Viet Nam Pharmaceutical Companies Association, addressed the consequences of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a broad-based free trade agreement. Viet Nam is one of twelve countries currently negotiating the terms of the TPP. One point of consideration in the negotiations has been the potential impact of the TPP’s intellectual property (IP) provisions on countries that have a generic pharmaceutical industry.

The workshops, designed for stakeholders with a role or interest in the negotiations and ratification of the TPP by Viet Nam, and the pharmaceutical industry in general, focused on the potential impact on the Vietnamese pharmaceutical industry of the proposed IP provisions in the draft TPP Agreement, as well as the experience of certain Latin American countries in dealing with these provisions during the TPP negotiating rounds.

Opening the first workshop, Patrick J. Gilabert, UNIDO Representative in Viet Nam, said “We all know that a number of issues in the TPP have the potential to affect certain industries in Vietnam. One of these is the potential impact of intellectual property provisions on access to medicines, and the domestic pharmaceutical industry. The scope of the IP chapter in a FTA is very important for countries that have a generic pharmaceutical industry. Certain IP provisions in FTAs may limit the ‘flexibilities’ contained in the so-called TRIPS Agreement (Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).

Co-chairing the workshops, Dr. Nguyen Van Tien, Vice Chairman of National Assembly Office, expressed his appreciation that, although Viet Nam has so far participated in 18 rounds of TPP negotiation, this was the first time such a workshop on this issue has been organized in Viet Nam for a wide range of stakeholders, including legislators. He said that the workshops came at the "right time for Viet Nam" and provided “a lot of useful information and lessons learned.”

At one workshop, Kiyoshi Adachi, Chief of the Intellectual Property Unit of UNCTAD, provided an overview on intellectual property and the local production of medicines, TRIPS standards, TRIPS flexibilities and the impact of TRIPS- Plus provisions. In addition, Pedro Roffe, Senior Expert of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, shared the experiences of Chile and Peru in negotiations on the IP provisions in the TPP Agreement, and the strategies employed by these countries.

In the ensuing deliberations among workshop participants, the limitations on TRIPS flexibilities (both pre- and post-granting of patents) by TPP provisions were explored. The likely immediate effects on drug regulation, especially the slower and delayed registration of lower-cost generic alternatives to patented medicines and constraints on the Government’s ability to implement the control of drug prices, were discussed. One repeated concern was the impact on access to essential medicines. 

The longer-term effects of a possible narrowing of the market space for the domestic pharmaceutical industry also came under scrutiny. The stress, however, was on strategies to achieve balanced outcomes from the TPP Agreement. The consensus was that with regard to the pharmaceutical industry, Viet Nam needs a plan with clear objectives in its negotiating agenda, as well as a plan for dealing with the aftermath of prospective ratification. 

For more information, please contact:

Patrick Gilabert
UNIDO Representative in Viet Nam