We, the under signed civil society organisations working on HIV, AIDS and human rights express grave concern about the manner in which the KORUS Free Trade agreement was passed in the South Korean Parliament on Tuesday the 22nd of November 2011.

The South Korean government has reportedly pushed its parliament to ratify the agreement without transparent and open public debate. This act of secrecy and lack of accountability to the public was demonstrated by the chaos that prevailed in the South Korean Parliament on Tuesday.

The impacts of the Free Trade Agreement will be felt profoundly in South Korea. Many South Koreans are already unable to afford life-saving medicines. The national health budget is under serious strain. It will be felt most by the general public when seeking health services, including people living with HIV.

The inclusion of Intellectual Property Rights clauses such as patent linkage, data exclusivity, patent term extension and other TRIPS Plus measures will greatly expand drug company monopoly rights and discourage fair competition between generic drug companies. These conditions will cause medicine prices to increase, to the benefit of big corporations and multinational companies, with direct consequences to public health programs. Earlier reports have indicated that medicines account for 30% ofKorea’s health expenditure budget, higher than OECD countries, however too many Koreans do not receive life saving medicines.

Shiba Phurailatpam, Regional Coordinator of APN+ says “We are very worried that a developed country in Asia has ratified a bilateral trade agreement behind closed doors, in such an undemocratic and shameful manner. This can have region wide ramifications at the individual level but also because developing countries look up to Korea. This agreement could be used as a model to push through other bi lateral trade agreements currently being negotiated in the region”.

The growing number of bilateral trade agreements that are emerging or currently being negotiated in the Asia region is overwhelming.  All too often, these negotiations are being conducted behind closed doors.  Furthermore, developed countries are pushing small economy and developing countries to adopt Intellectual Property Rights clauses which could seriously hamper access to life saving medicines.

We join hands in solidarity with South Korean protesters and call upon the Honorable President of the Republic of South Korea to nullify the agreement that was ratified on the 22nd of November. This agreement and the manner in which it has been ratified, has undermined South Korea’s sovereign democratic policies, public health services and seriously impede the development and well being of its common man.

Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV (APN+)

Coalition of Asia Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS (7 Sisters)

Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD)

Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW)

International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC)

Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM)

For more information, contact Giten Khwairakpam at Giten@7sisters.org

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