Bolivia stonewalls Peru’s proposed amendment to Andean Community intellecual property rules

Foreign affairs and commerce ministers from the Andean Community of Nations have ended a three-day meeting on a sour note, with Peru accusing Bolivia of stonewalling its efforts to strengthen common intellectual property rights — a requirement that must be met for Peru to start its free trade deal with the United States.

“Obviously, Peru will act in accordance with what it signed with the U.S. There are legal mechanisms that we are exploring, but it is clear that Peru will not subordinate the implementation of the FTA with the United States to the opposition of one country,” said Peruvian Foreign Minister José García Belaunde.

Bolivia’s position is “unfriendly” and “very ideological,” he added. “I believe that Bolivia’s position does not respect our sovereignty.”

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who rejected the amendment on Monday, has accused Peru of violating the Andean bloc’s internal rules by failing to get approval from the trade bloc members before going it alone and signing a bilateral trade deal with Washington.

The U.S.-Peru trade pact was signed into law Dec. 14 by President George W. Bush.

Morales has also complained that Peru and Colombia are moving ahead too quickly with FTA negotiations with Europe and has threatened to use his influence within the trade bloc to derail the talks.

For the regime to be modified, it must be supported by at least three favorable votes with no votes in opposition. Peru and Colombia, both close allies of Washington, worked succesfully to persuade Ecuador’s leftist government to vote in favor of the modification.

Peru had hoped that Bolivia would abstain. But Morales made good on his threat.

“We have Colombia and Ecuador’s support, but a politically motivated Bolivia has turned down the Peruvian proposal,” Peru Commerce Minister Mercedes Araoz told Radioprogramas radio.

“We have asked Bolivia to think about the mutual respect that must exist between our nations, especially concerning decisions that affect our country’s development,” Araoz added.

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca denied his country’s position constituted an unfriendly stance toward Peru, and argued Bolivia was trying to protect the Andean bloc from unfair bargaining conditions for any multilateral free trade deal.

Decision 486 Common Intellectual Property Regime includes, among other things, provisions on patent rights for pharmaceuticals, which opponents say would drastically raise the price of medicine for the region’s poor.

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