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Government urged to support equitable global access to medicines at WHO Pandemic Treaty meeting

Media Release  February 27, 2023

World Health Organisation (WHO) member governments will meet in Geneva this evening AEDT to start debating a draft Pandemic Treaty intended to learn from the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic and develop better strategies for future pandemics, to be completed in 2024.

Leading public health, fair trade, church, human rights and aid and development organisations have written to the Ministers responsible for Health, Foreign Affairs and Trade asking them not to repeat the “catastrophic moral failure” of inequitable global access to COVID vaccines, treatments and tests. The letter is attached. Quotes from organisation leaders are below.

WHO draft pandemic treaty proposes monopoly waivers, and other measures for equitable access to medicines

February 8, 2023: The World Health Organization (WHO)’s first or ‘zero-draft’ for a treaty on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response would commit Member States to support temporary waivers of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules for 20-year monopolies on pandemic related products. This would enable developing countries to scale up manufacturing of cheaper products, and increase the availability of affordable pandemic-related products.

AFTINET submission to the Review of ISDS in the Australia-NZ-ASEAN free trade agreement

February 6, 2022: This revision of the ASEAN agreement (AANZFTA) was begun under the Morrison coalition government and Labor Trade Minister Farrell announced on November 14 that in-principle agreement has been reached on most issues. The text will not be released until after it is finalised. The RCEP and CPTPP texts are being used as models. The provisions on corporate rights to sue governments (Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS) arrangements are still being reviewed.

Free Trade negotiations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should not proceed

January 30, 2023: The previous Coalition government initiated a scoping negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with the UAE, comprising the following emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, and Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, and with the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia and Qatar. AFTINET made a submission to the previous government in April 2022 arguing that  both negotiations should not proceed because of gross violation of human rights and labour rights in these countries.

AFTINET submission to the India - Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement

January 25, 2023: The India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (AI-CECA) negotiations are due to begin in late January 2023 and are expected to finish by June. The interim agreement, which was negotiated by the previous government, mainly dealt with trade in goods and services, and movement of temporary workers. The comprehensive negotiations will deal with issues like labour rights, environmental standards, digital trade, intellectual property and government procurement.

US authorities challenge India’s Sun Pharmaceuticals’ generic drug quality

January 24, 2023: Australia’s ABC News has reported that the US Food and Drug Administration has claimed that it found sub-standard production processes of generic medicines at Sun Pharmaceutical Industries’ production facility at Halol, Gujrat. The FDA does not accept the company’s response as adequate, and could block the entry of its products into the USA.

El Salvador government arrests key activists who defeated OceanaGold ISDS case

January 23, 2023: On January 20, 251 organisations including AFTINET, from 29 countries, called on the Salvadoran government to drop spurious murder charges against five leading Water Defenders arrested on January 11, 2023. The five arrested are Miguel Ángel Gámez, Alejandro Laínez García, Pedro Antonio Rivas Laínez, Antonio Pacheco, and Saúl Agustín Rivas Ortega, from the Santa Marta community in the north of the country. They now face six months of pre-trial detention.

Australian Agriculture Minister flies to London as Lords debate the Australia – UK FTA

January 17, 2023: Australian Agriculture Minister Senator Murray Watt flew to London this week to shore up support for the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement, which is being debated in the UK parliament and is still to be ratified by the Sunak Conservative Government.

Minister Watts tweeted: “I’m in London & Berlin to advocate for Aus ag. With National Farmers President Fiona Simson in a joint Govt-industry push for: ratification of the Aus-UK FTA; a good deal in the Aus-EU FTA & promotion of Australia’s sustainable ag credentials.”