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CETA: A Transatlantic Perspective – European Life Science Investment in Canada (Guest blog)

Robert Quesnel, Sanofi Canada
Vice-President and General Counsel, Legal and Corporate Affairs
Vice-président, Services juridiques et affaires de l'entrepriseice-président
Services juridiques et affaires de l'entreprise
Sanofi Canada, Laval, Quebec
http://www.sanofi.ca

Earlier this year, the Director General of BusinessEurope, Mr. Markus J. Beyrer, extended an invitation to me to speak before a distinguished audience, comprised of European and Canadian officials, as well as other industry representatives, at the seat of the European Parliament in Brussels. It was with pleasure that I welcomed this opportunity to speak alongside honourable guests, such as European Commissioner for Trade, Ms. Cecilia Malmström, and the Canadian Ambassador to the European Union, Mr. Daniel Costello. The event was hosted by Mr. Artis Pabriks, a Member of the European Parliament for Latvia, whom I would like to thank for facilitating the discussion and for allowing me the chance to give a presentation on what benefits the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) represents for a European company such as Sanofi.

Sanofi is a global healthcare leader, with a long and continuing history of providing treatments in a range of therapeutic areas. Sanofi has invested significantly in Canada, and in 2015, we employed close to 1,800 employees there, with R&D investments totalling $133.3m – making Sanofi one of the largest investors in Canada’s biopharmaceutical sector. Our industry is based largely upon our ability to respond to patients’ needs by conducting research into innovative therapies. This relies heavily on intellectual property (IP) protection as a key incentive for promoting R&D, allowing us to recoup our initial investments and to continue investing in the field of research, to find innovative solutions to meet patients’ needs.

Indeed, although Canada and Europe are both great places to do business, and both strive to ensure the best possible levels of consumer protection, some differences do exist, even in the field of IP protection, a crucial element for our industry.

CETA therefore represents an opportunity to ensure a fairer alignment of IP rules, creating a more equal environment in terms of protection for innovation. This alignment, as laid out in the text, takes form in Canada’s commitment to:

  • Provide an equal Right of Appeal for innovators in patent linkage proceedings, a right only available currently to manufacturers of generic medicines;
  • Introduce a Patent Term Restoration (PTR) system, akin to the Supplementary Protection Certificate available in the European Union, providing patent-holders with additional patent length to gain compensation for the time taken to achieve regulatory approval; and
  • Continue with Canada’s current Regulatory Data Protection system, whereby Canada would refrain from reducing data exclusivity below its current protection period. Although not necessarily a change, this assurance would provide predictability and certainty for innovators for years to come. This is necessary as the development of new medicines is a long-term endeavour.

Ultimately, these commitments provide for a fairer business environment for European companies operating in Canada, similar to those that Canadian companies may already avail themselves of in the European Union.

As a Canadian citizen and consumer, working for a European company with investments in Canada, I have been able to follow closely the CETA negotiations. I am confident to say that the CETA trade agreement, if ratified, would not only be unique in the precedent it sets, creating a positive environment for business, but it would be reflective of a friendship that has endured many decades.

Canada and Europe have always shared a strong bond, forged by a shared history, and buttressed by a commitment to common values. Despite this, we cannot avoid the fact that we are living in an increasingly globalised world, and both sides are facing significant challenges. We are witnessing increasing difficulties in the dynamics of global trade, such as limited growth and rising populism, combined with volatile geopolitical situations. These challenges make strengthening the continued friendship between Canada and Europe as practical as it is indeed necessary.

The endless hard work that has gone into the progress we have made so far with the CETA agreement has shown not only that Europe and Canada are reaching out across the water to like-minded partners, but it also serves to reassure businesses and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic that the European Union and the Canadian government are committed to providing the best possible environment in which businesses may flourish, reinvigorating growth in our economies while ensuring high standards of consumer (and indeed, patient) protection.

For these reasons, I commended Commissioner Malmström and Ambassador Costello on their achievements thus far, and urged them to continue their work in making this mutually-beneficial agreement a success.

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