Negotiations for an FTA between the EFTA states and Thailand began in 2005. By the second round, domestic political upheaval had already brought the talks to a standstill. Since then, negotiations have been suspended and despite the efforts of the EFTA states are likely to remain on hold because the Thai government needs a new mandate from the parliament in order to resume them.

Even before the first round of negotiations took place, Public Eye and the Liechtensteinische Gesellschaft für Umweltschutz (Lichtenstein Association for Environmental protection) joined forces with 15 other NGOs from EFTA countries to write a letter to the then UN Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health. They informed him that the provisions on intellectual property that EFTA states wanted to integrate into the agreement, risked hindering access to affordable generic drugs in Thailand (see ‘Switzerland attacks compulsory licensing’).

Affordable medicines centralized

In light of the many people in Thailand living with HIV/Aids, access to affordable drugs is vital. The organisations thus asked the Special Rapporteur to send an urgent appeal to the EFTA countries, calling on them to fulfil their human rights obligations and to refrain from including stronger rules on intellectual property which would limit Thailand’s ability to provide its population with affordable drugs.

Public Eye was also active in the run up to the second round of negotiations; together with a broad coalition of civil society organisations from Thailand, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, it sent a letter to the trade ministries of the EFTA states. It demanded that no provisions which could potentially jeopardise the provision of medication, farmers’ rights or access to affordable loans be included in the free trade agreement.

In addition, during a visit to Switzerland, two Thai experts noted the danger posed by the TRIPS-plus provisions to Thailand’s agricultural and healthcare sectors.