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Debate in Brussels over the potential impacts to European healthcare from a prospective ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’ (TTIP) between the European Union (EU) and USA has been reactivated by an announced position on the subject from the European Parliament’s Trade Committee and an open stakeholder event hosted by the European Commission.
TTIP is a proposed free-trade agreement between the EU and the USA. Proponents say the agreement would result in multilateral economic growth, while critics fear it will make it more difficult for governments to regulate markets such as healthcare for public benefit.
The Commission's messages of reassurance
On 27 May, the European Commission's TTIP negotiating team for pharmaceuticals and medical devices hosted a meeting for civil society organisations to explain the current status of negotiations and to take questions.
The Commission considers that TTIP provides significant opportunities for improving cooperation between European and USA regulatory agencies in the area of health. Benefits include enhanced exchange of regulatory information and knowledge, and further regulatory efficiency. This seems to be particularly the case in terms of increased cooperation between the European Medicines Agency and USA’s counterpart, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
However, civil society stakeholder organisations such as the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue, are concerned that the binding nature of the proposed agreement could constrain European initiatives designed to improve access to medical treatment (eg, achieving price reductions to medicines). Other groups fear the agreement could permit products from the USA to be marketed in Europe that do not meet European regulatory conditions.
The Commission considered these objections unwarranted and reminded organisations that the aim of TTIP is not to create a new single market as conceptualised in the EU sense, but rather, to eliminate discrimination in the market against foreign companies where possible, and lift unnecessary restrictions on trade. The Commission does not therefore …
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