Humanitarian group blasts draft EU-India trade deal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Monday 26 April criticised draft provisions of a free-trade deal between the European Union and India, saying it would boost prices of drugs for India's poor.

The EU and India are in talks on a free trade agreement that they hope could be completed in October.

MSF said prices of medicines in India would go up because the bilateral deal would tighten the protection of intellectual property rights of drug-makers and require the manufacturers of generic drugs to make their own drug tests instead of relying on data from the original pharmaceutical firms.

"The reason that we are concerned is that we saw on Friday 23 April the latest version of this agreement. And it still contains these provisions," said Michelle Childs, director of policy and advocacy for the MSF Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.

"They continually repeat that they are not seeking to have an effect on access to medicines but their actions do not match their words," she said of the European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, which conducts the negotiations.

She also said civil society organisations should be involved in the talks, now conducted behind closed doors.

But EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said the EU had agreed to make changes to the deal and that developing countries had the right to access essential medicines.

"The European Commission is going to take care that there are no hindrances for access to essential medicines for people from a developing country," he said.

Trade between India and the EU stands at 78 billion euros ($105 billion). Brussels says the agreement could open up export opportunities worth $9 billion for India.

Negotiations for a free trade agreement began in 2007 but need to close differences on issues such as market access and the EU's moves to link commerce to India's performance on child labour and the environment.

(Reporting by Sangeeta Shastry)

© Thomson Reuters 2018 All rights reserved.