Colombia Is Not Ready to Join the OECD

The 35 countries that form the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have long promoted strong policies that protect innovation and support open markets. When a country is granted OECD membership, it’s widely seen as a seal of approval—a message to the world that a nation meets the highest standards. That’s why the upcoming decision on Colombia’s accession into the OECD must not be made hastily.

After a process that has spanned nearly five years, Colombia is still not ready to join the OECD. It has consistently failed to do the hard work necessary to reform its economy and to bring its laws in line with those of leading nations. That’s exactly the conclusion the OECD Trade Committee should reach when they consider Colombia’s accession in Paris next month.

Colombia falls short of OECD standards in four ways:

  1. Colombia does not grant patents for many types of medical inventions and has no mechanism in place to resolve patent disputes before potentially infringing products are launched.
  2. The country fails to provide sufficient regulatory data protection, an important prerequisite for OECD countries.
  3. Colombia has cast aside international norms to put in place new rules that condition marketing authorization of new medicines on price and establish an unregulated path for approval of new biologics that would put patients at risk.
  4. Late last year, the country announced a process that may result in compulsory licensing of an entire class of innovative medicines.

These failures and destructive actions prevent safe and effective new treatments from reaching Colombian patients, they are also directly at odds with the OECD’s mission to advance global trade and innovation and to promote principles of open government and transparency. That is why it’s so critical that OECD members take the time to ensure Colombia resolves these problems before it joins the organization.

Colombia’s President, Juan Manuel Santos, wants to complete the OECD accession process before he leaves office this summer. But that’s no reason to lower the bar. Giving Colombia a pass would not only be a missed opportunity for progress, but would send a devastating signal to other countries waiting in the wings that OECD membership can be had on the cheap.

Now is not the time for the OECD to forget its core mission. The institution must stand firmly by its values and demonstrate its commitment to maintaining the global gold standard for intellectual property protection, good governance and economic progress.