As negotiations continue on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, one persistent sticking point has been public health, and in particular patent protections for pharmaceuticals. In an email interview, Frederick M. Abbott, the Edward Ball Eminent Scholar at Florida State University College of Law and an expert on international intellectual property rights, explained the public health concerns involved in trade negotiations.
WPR: In what ways have public health issues arisen as points of contention in the current rounds of major multilateral trade talks, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Frederick M. Abbott: Issues relating to public health are perhaps the major source of contention in the TPP negotiations, following a trend that has characterized many sets of bilateral and regional trade negotiations since the end of the Uruguay Round. Negotiations regarding public health subjects have largely shifted to “plurilateral” forums because establishing a broad consensus on these subjects is typically very difficult.