MSF calls for cautious approach on EU-India free trade agreement

International medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF/Doctors Without Borders) on Wednesday called for a cautious approach from Indian negotiators on the reinstatement of talks for the EU-India free trade agreement which was discussed during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit.

The European Union is only a few formal steps away from adopting and enacting new European Trademark rules, which will allow EU customs officials to seize goods in transit suspected of counterfeit (wilful) trademark infringement, unless a holder of legitimate goods (such as low-cost generic medicines) – can prove that there is no infringement of the relevant trademark in the country of destination, the MSF said in a release here.

MSF and other organisations have repeatedly called for the removal of any border measures that allow trademark enforcement on goods in transit, given previous seizures of generic medicines within the European Union that were intended to provide life-saving treatment in developing countries, it said.

Any seizure of legitimate low-cost generic medicines could introduce a substantial new barrier to low-cost generic competition that undermine producers and purchasers of low-cost generic medicines, and more broadly have a negative impact on treatment programmes in developing countries.

“By introducing a new right to stop and seize goods in transit through the European Union on just the suspicion of counterfeit (wilful) trademark infringement, the EU is about to take another unacceptable step beyond internationally-agreed trade rules to the detriment of affordable access to medicines in low- and middle-income countries,” the MSF said.

The EU-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has been in negotiations since 2007. From the outset, the European Commission has pushed to include provisions that would undermine India’s ability to produce affordable medicines on which millions of people in developing countries rely.