A battle is under way to decide the intellectual property law for half the world’s population. A trade agreement that hopes to create a free trade area even larger than that forged by Genghis Khan will define intellectual property rules across much of Asia and the Pacific. The sixteen countries negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) include China, India, Japan, and South Korea, and stretch to Australia and New Zealand. A review of a leaked draft reveals a struggle largely between India on one side and South Korea and Japan on the other over the intellectual property rules that will govern much of the world. The result of this struggle will affect not only access to innovation in the Asia-Pacific, but also across Africa and other parts of the world that depend on generic medicines from India, which has been called the “pharmacy to the developing world.” Surprisingly, the agreement that includes China as a pillar may result in stricter intellectual property rights than those mandated by the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Perhaps even more surprisingly, such TRIPS-plus rights will be available in the RCEP states to the United States and European companies equally by somewhat recondite provisions in TRIPS. In sum, the RCEP draft erodes access to medicines and education across much of the world.



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