US-Colombia Free Trade Deal Costly for Poor People

By Oxfam

International aid organization Oxfam expressed concern at today’s announcement that the US and Colombia have concluded negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement. Oxfam believes that the agreement, in its current form, will do more harm than good and will endanger the livelihood of many thousands of small farmers who already live in poverty and dangerously threaten Colombia’s access to important life-saving drugs at affordable prices.

“The US-Colombia Free Trade agreement will institutionalize an uneven playing field between the two countries instead of establishing fair and equitable rules for trade that could promote development and reduce poverty,” said Stephanie Weinberg, Policy Advisor for Oxfam America.

According to Oxfam, the US-Colombia Free Trade agreement includes strict new intellectual property rules that could seriously obstruct efforts to lower the price and increase the accessibility of life-saving medicines. These new rules exceed the World Trade Organization (WTO) standards and will restrict or limit the use of WTO safeguards to protect public health and promote access to medicines for all.

“The US-Colombia Free Trade agreement unduly extends the monopoly period enjoyed by international pharmaceutical companies and could dangerously hinder Colombia’s access to important life-saving drugs at affordable prices” continued Weinberg.

The agreement also does not take into account that the US subsidizes farm production with billions of dollars in taxpayer support. This could spell economic disaster for the millions of people in Colombia who depend on agriculture who could face massive dumping of subsidized farm products on their market. Although the trade agreement is supposed to help in the fight against drug trafficking, Oxfam warns that poor farmers who cannot sell their corn and rice will have few other options but to grow coca to survive.

“Trade agreements should offer economic opportunity and development, not dumping of agricultural products and impediments to public health. The rules on intellectual property, agriculture and investment negotiated into this agreement add up to a bad deal for farmers, workers and consumers in Colombia.”

“This agreement is a huge challenge to public health in Colombia as it compromises the financial viability of the national health system and limits access to life-saving medicines, particularly for the poor,” said Dr. Luis Guillermo Restrepo, the vice-president of Colombia’s National School of Pharmaceutical Studies and former advisor to the director of Colombia’s drug regulatory authority. “The agreement is also ethically questionable as it severely limits the ability of the Colombian government to fulfill its responsibilities in respect to the right to health.”

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