Duterte says TPP ‘a very wrong policy’

Pia Ranada
Duterte says TPP ‘a very wrong policy’
The Philippine president says the Obama-led Trans-Pacific Partnership is disastrous for developing countries because it restricts access to affordable medicines

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte echoed the sentiments of United States President-elect Donald Trump, decrying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement championed by President Barack Obama.

Kagaya ‘yung TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, mabuti na lang hindi ‘tinuloy ni [Trump] kasi napakamali na policy ‘yan,” said Duterte on Tuesday, December 13.

(Like the TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership. It’s good that Trump isn’t continuing it because it’s a very wrong policy.)

He was giving a speech before departing for state visits to Cambodia and Singapore, where he will discuss with their leaders what agenda the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will champion.

Duterte, as Philippine president, will chair the ASEAN in 2017. He intends to seek out the views of Southeast Asian leaders on the TPP, among other agreements.

“I am glad that Trump said he will throw to the garbage can that TPP; otherwise, it will create problems for all of us here in Asia,” continued Duterte.

Access to medicines

The Philippine president opposes the TPP because of its impact on accessibility of affordable medicine to poor Filipinos.

“If you go for TPP, you won’t be able to buy generic. Either you [buy] from India, and Pakistan and their generic medicines are really very cheap and we can save a lot for our country,” he said.

Joining the TPP would be disastrous for developing countries like the Philippines, he said.

“We are promoting generic because we are a poor nation and we can buy the medicines at cost from India and Pakistan. and yet there’s a damper that says we cannot if you’re a member of the TPP,” said Duterte.

Some analysts and health groups, like Doctors Without Borders, take the same position.

“Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) remains extremely concerned about the inclusion of dangerous provisions that would dismantle public health safeguards enshrined in international law and restrict access to price-lowering generic medicines for millions of people,” said the group in its campaign website.

Analysts say the TPP introduces aggressive intellectual property standards on medicines that allow pharmaceutical companies to extend monopoly drug patents, which makes medicines more expensive and less accessible for the poor.

The TPP is also criticized for overriding previous international agreements that sought to strike a balance between IP demands and public health interests.

The TPP rules, some say, favor interests of big pharmaceutical companies.

“It could be a day ruled again by rich multinationals. It’s something apparently intended to help but it is not [helping],” said Duterte.

The TPP was signed last February by 12 countries that together make up 40% of the world’s economy: US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Peru.

The agreement was designed to create a new market, similar to the European Union. It notably excludes China.

While Duterte seems to shun TPP, he has embraced China-led economic initiatives like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Belt and Road initiative.

Trump has promised to withdraw the US from the TPP. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that without the US, the TPP is “meaningless.” – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.