The 19th round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a mega free trade agreement being discussed among 16 countries including India, concluded last week. However, the key issues holding the final text of these negotiations don't seem to be getting resolved. These negotiations, which started in 2012, are largely considered to be anti-farmer, anti-poor, pro-corporations, and often undermine the socio-economic growth of less developed countries.
One of the worst affected commodities of RCEP will be cheaper generic medicines. The negotiations are held in utmost secrecy and without any communication to the general populace. Though the draft of RCEP negotiations has never been made public, its chapter on intellectual property was leaked in October 2015. The chapter contained some frightening provisions favouring big pharmaceutical companies. The provisions allow these companies to increase their monopoly over medicines for a longer period, shooting up their prices many times over. The text showed that two countries — Japan and South Korea — have asked for extension of patents term from the current 20 years. This means a longer period of market monopoly for just one company for a particular drug.