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CHICAGO, Sept 12 AFP

September 13 2011, 09:02AM

The United States has called for the removal of tariffs and stronger intellectual property protections for medicines within the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact.

The US Trade Representative said the proposal is aimed at promoting trade in generic and innovative medicines, while guaranteeing pharmaceutical producers intellectual property rights.

The USTR proposal was made at negotiations in Chicago with eight trading partners -- Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam -- over the creation of the regional trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

A key element of the US drugs plan is a "TPP access window" that allows countries to reserve intellectual property rights protections to drugs moved to market only within a certain window of time.

It also calls for improved legal certainty for generic drugs, such as ensuring that generic drugmakers can work on the drugs legally in the run-up to a patent expiration.

If adopted, the new measures "will help innovative drugs get into markets where they might not otherwise go, and will help make generics available the day they can legally be sold", USTR spokeswoman Carol Guthrie told AFP.

The US proposal also seeks the immediate elimination of tariffs on generic and innovative medicines.

Some TPP partners have zero tariffs already on medicines, such as Brunei, Malaysia and New Zealand. But in the TPP region there are tariffs in the 5-10 per cent range on critical drugs like amoxicillin, penicillin, and anti-malarial drugs, the spokeswoman said.

"That is a clear barrier to imports of potentially life-saving medicines. We seek a commitment from TPP partners not to impose such barriers," Guthrie said.

Other TEAM proposals included a reduction in regulatory barriers and further curbs on trade in counterfeit drugs.

The TPP talks are aimed at agreeing a pact to improve the economic integration of the nine trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

Negotiators are striving to have an outline of the agreement in time for the November 8-13 meeting of APEC leaders in Honolulu.