Will the Australian Government Walk Away from the TPP?

Yves here. The Wikileaks release last week of the TPP chapter draft from December 2014 that covered drugs and medical devices made clear that it would interfere with effective and popular programs like Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, that help contain pharmaceutical goods prices. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration reads the literature on the efficacy and costs of different drugs, and selects the ones it deems most effective (which often aren’t they very newest formulation, since Big Pharma has made a science of making minor tweaks in existing drugs so as to extend the patent life and support higher prices. The TGA will pick certain drugs in each category and bargain hard on price.

The idea that a loyal ally like Australia is even considering not signing the TPP is yet another sign that the deal is in trouble overseas as well as in the US.

By Leith van Onselen who has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/leithvo. Originally published at MacroBusiness

Amid reports earlier in the week that US President, Barack Obama, is refusing to slash agricultural tariffs and import quotas as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, thus excluding Australian sugar and beef farmers from realising benefits, Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, has vowed today that the Government won’t sign any deal unless it includes significant cuts to agricultural protection:

“If there’s nothing in it for us then we don’t need to sign it,” the minister told ABC radio on Friday.

Previously, the Nationals, along with Liberal Senate agricultural committee member, Bill Heffernan, raised concerns about the impacts of the TPP on bio security, suggesting there is some disquiet within the Coalition.

Meanwhile, Trans-Tasman health experts have sounded new warnings about potential adverse impacts on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) arising from the TPP, following the release of the annexe on “transparency and procedural fairness for pharmaceutical products and medical devices” by Wikileaks:

Deborah Gleeson, a lecturer at the school of psychology and public health at La Trobe University, said the inclusion of an annexe on health “serves no useful public interest purpose”…

“It sets a terrible precedent for using regional trade deals to tamper with other countries’ health systems…

Jane Kelsey of the faculty of law of the University of Auckland described the annexe as one of the most controversial parts of the TPP in her analysis. She said the US pharmaceutical industry was using the trade agreement to target New Zealand’s Pharmaceutical Management Agency (Pharmac), equivalent to the PBS…

“This leaked text shows the TPP will severely erode Pharmac’s ability to continue to deliver affordable medicines and medical devices as it has for the past two decades.

“That will mean fewer medicines are subsidised, or people will pay more as co-payments or more of the health budget will go to pay for medicines instead of other activities or the health budget will have to expand beyond the cap.

“Whatever the outcome, the big global pharmaceutical companies will win”…

AMA president Brian Owler said while doctors were very concerned at the possible effects on Australia’s healthcare systems, they were constantly dismissed by the trade minister Andrew Robb.

“When we have raised concerns about the effects on health, the only response is ‘we are not going to undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme’,” said Owler.

“We are worried about the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism and there are issues in terms of patents that would affect pharmaceutical prices.

“The problem is our concerns have been dismissed by the trade minister but we do not know what is in the text.”

Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, has previously stated that he won’t sign any deal that extends patents or would compromise Australia’s health system.

Let’s Robb keeps his word. Because the way the TPP negotiations are panning out, it looks as if the US would gain significant intellectual property and copyright protections for its pharmaceutical, technology and television/film entertainment sectors, without reciprocal arrangements for Australian farmers.

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    Yves, don’t get your hopes up: Robb and his pals have consistently shown that they are far more interested in helping major multi-nationals than supporting the Australian national interest. You only have to look at they way they bend over backwards to help the fossil fuel industry (which, of course, ran the Rudd Government out of town). They are much more likely to support Big Pharma than the PBS (which, after all, has no lobbyists and is designed to help the less well off get cheaper medicines). Added to that, this is the most intellectually challenged govt in Australian history. We have a prime minister who relies upon mindless slogans, national security fear-mongering and vicious campaigns against his enemies run by the Murdoch press. Period. The rest of his Cabinet is just as dumb and nasty. The treasurer is now famous for saying that the poor shouldn’t worry about petrol price rises, because they don’t drive, and anybody who can’t afford a house in Sydney (because of the housing bubble) should get a better paid job.

    1. norm de plume

      Here’s Joe:


      This after Abbott averred that he hoped house prices just keep on rising. You can’t make people like this up. Joe, who boarded at the same exclusive University College as Abbott, is married to a gun forex trader, and owns several desirable properties but like most pols claims 270 bucks a night ‘travel allowance’ for staying in one of them:


      This is the guy who is so proud of his Palestinian heritage all he could say when Israel massacred Gaza was ‘Israel has a right to defend itself’.

      He is a greedy, entitled dill, with plenty of like-minded company on the front bench.

    2. Nathanael

      Given that the Liberal/National Coalition is a bunch of total coin-operated corporate sellouts, it would be *extraordinary* if they rejected TPP. Truly extraordinary. I would not expect it.

      If they do reject it, it indicates that the multinational corporate attempt at fascism has completely cracked up and will fall apart worldwide very soon.

    3. different clue

      The prior commenters said it sooner and better . . . . if the Australian government is the Upper Class Warrior government it looks like from here . . . then it is committed to signing TPP unless it is brutally stopped by blunt force trauma. And who in Australia has that kind of power?

  2. Toivos

    Julian Assange should be given more credit. He has suffered considerably for his work but continues to provide incredibly valuable information.

      1. Carla

        Agreed. On this theme, I was delighted to be able to make a pledge to the Wikileaks Understanding Good Government prize that will award $100,000 to the first individual to deliver to Wikileaks the remaining 26 Chapters of the TPP. You, too, can pledge if you so desire, here:


  3. Antifa

    Every few days we get to read something in the news about how this or that country is having second thoughts or fundamental disputes with TPP or one of its sister treaties. Treaties which place transnational corporations and their “divine right to profit” ahead of national or regional or even municipal autonomy or self government.

    Treaties which take precedence over the innate right of every human creature to self determination, so treaties that promote economic slavery.

    These stories of disagreements are just that. They are actually just understandable squabbling over who gets how much of the proceeds, but presented to us as this or that politician looking out for the interests of their nation state. It’s a pie bald lie.

    The world doesn’t work that way. A politician is something you buy, or you pay to replace it with a politician that serves your interests better. Like a modular part on my car — if it can’t be adjusted back to within operating parameters, out it comes and a brand new one goes in its place.

    The effective world government these days is the transnational rich and the transnational corporations they own. They steer national governments the way we bipeds drive our cars, except they drive nation states right over the will of the citizens living in them in order to arrive at their destination — a new feudal system where the haves rule, not govern, but rule — over everyone else, who has not.

    In this century we can expect to see the outlines of a functional world government emerge, but these transnational pirates will be the main obstacle, for their profits depend on playing nation states against one another, through trade agreements that neuter nation states while profiting their political and rentier classes immensely.

    1. Ulysses

      “The effective world government these days is the transnational rich and the transnational corporations they own. They steer national governments the way we bipeds drive our cars, except they drive nation states right over the will of the citizens living in them in order to arrive at their destination — a new feudal system where the haves rule, not govern, but rule — over everyone else, who has not.”

      Very well said!! Those of us who aren’t Kochs or Waltons, etc. need to spend more time identifying exactly who among the Davos/Bilderberg elites are the most vulnerable, and then strategize about how to remove them from power and end their tyranny!

      Yesterday’s delay to the fast-tracking of the latest transnational scheme to further oppress the 99.9%, is just that, a delay. We won’t take global corporate rule “off the table,” without major transformations that will entail severe disruptions to the status quo! Another world is possible, but only if 99.9% of us clearly demand it, and begin to build it.

    2. craazyboy

      I don’t know why the citizens of any country would knowingly and willingly vote to become a banana republic.

      1. JTMcPhee

        “The citizens” don’t get to vote in the allocations that actually count, and still the Few make little efforts to purloin that little bit of ” legitimacy,” that fig leaf of electoral choice. Whynis that?

    3. different clue

      Is a politician something you can “torture” or “terrorize”? Is a politician something you can jam or prang or break?

      Then too, are some politicians in it for the ego-identity gratification as much as, or more than, the money? Would election loss threaten their sense of self enough that the credible threat of it would change their vote on one thing or another?

      Then too, are some politians un-boughtedly agenda-driven as they appear to be? Is Sanders necessarily bought? Is Grayson necessarily bought?

      Perhaps each politician should be analysed for what type heeshee is and how to be handled depending on what type heeshee is?

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Good comment! The bought and sold politicians we have, at least in the United States, are politicians the “faithful” elected through voting for lesser evils and the undecided elected through skipping the vote out of disgust.

  4. norm de plume

    You don’t expect anything but wealth- and elite- supporting behaviour from the Liberals – that is what they are for, all they consist of nowadays. They don’t for example scoff at climate change because they’re idiots (at least not solely) – it’s just what their donors and future employers want. They’re akin to the GOP, and like them they have their paleo-rump, the Nationals with colourful types like Barnaby, and even a few country Libs like Heffernan who may stray off the reservation, but in the main and certainly in the leadership they are finance and corporate friendly, a private-school wannabe aristocracy, innately opposed to the common good.

    Sadly nowadays you don’t expect much different from the Labour Party. It was dispiriting if not entirely surprising to see this piece earlier today:

    ‘Penny Wong urges Labor to reject ‘false panacea’ of protectionism
    Labor’s trade spokeswoman encourages party to support free trade agreements in a speech to the Australian Fabians in Melbourne’


    The Fabians!

    The ALP aren’t driving the trade pacts like Obama’s Democrats, just going with the flow, as usual. They and the Libs can get away with it because of the near blackout in major media of any critical voices… I speak to people I know – some in the law and professions and they quite literally have NO IDEA what these agreements entail, look bemused when I cover some angles, with the emphasis on sovereignty. There seems to be an unwillingness to accept that they could actually be that bad, that our pols could sell us out so fully… this is Australia mate, can’t happen here.

    The disquiet MacroBusiness and the Guardian make note of is encouraging, but that’s all. We have both sides of the great grey middle of politics in rough agreement, with only the outer fringes in revolt, so easily sidelined by Uncle Rupert’s sarcastic lieutenants (ivory-towered worry warts! left-leaning latte sipping luvvies! rort-protecting union thugs!)

  5. Code Name D

    The Roman Empire was hardly perfect. But as an experiment in Democracy, it was ahead of its day, not just socially but technologically as well. When it fell, much of the world fell into a long period of religious strife, grinding poverty, superstition, and perpetual warfare. What many call the Dark Ages.

    America, the “Land of the Free” was once the beacon on the hill. After WWII, it formed its own global empire. And just as when Rome fell, it seems that as the American Empire falls it shall be supplanted by a new Dark Age.

    TPP is the governing framework for that age. Instead of the Church being at the peek of the power pyramid, it will be the Corporate Board Room.

    We are seeing a fundamental restructuring of the very notion of government. Not sense we saw Ancient Grease supplant the city-state with the age of empire have we seen such a fundamental re-definition of governance.

    How ironic that those leading the charge are also those who rail against black helicopters and one-world order. But I guess sense the new world government is not lead by a “peace maker” but war mongers and slavers, it must be okay, because we know the Anti-Christ will be a peace maker. (Gorge Orwell has nothing on the Bible).

    I have wondered about this thought. We know the TPP is bad for America, but it must be equally bad for the other nations. How come we are not seeing demonstrators filling the streets against TPP in Japan and Alitalia? Or are they in fact doing so and I just don’t know about it?

    1. Winston Smith

      I often go back to Japan and see posters and flyets against the TPP. The Japanese farmers are especially tuned into the TPP trainwreck.

    2. different clue

      We don’t have to treat this as fate to be submitted to.

      Also, the City on the Hill concept was developed by sick minds to begin with. I don’t need America to be a Beacon on the Hill to feed my own “I’m an aMERican!” ego gratification. Making this an okay place to live for the okay people who live here is enough for me.

  6. AQ

    If TPP goes down, I guess someone needs to start challenging the legality of patents and copyright protections. Since many of the patents have been moved overseas for tax purposes, why are they still covered by US law? (or maybe they aren’t.)

  7. craazyboy

    A lotta Americans don’t know this, but maintaining domestic sugar production is critical to our national security and self sufficiency as a nation.

      1. craazyboy

        It’s true. Not sure whether to call it sarcasm. Just “observation” – but the sheer gigantic silliness of the truth creates it’s own – whatever.

        In our free trading wisdom, we have reduced import duties down to the 2-3% range for just about everything – even if we must “get competitive” with China or wherever.

        There are a few exceptions, the “why” usually has to do with lobbyists and probably “congressional vote trading”.

        When we were questioning the Thermodynamic Wisdom of corn ethanol (even with subsidized corn) we found out sugar ethanol actually works in Brazil. But US sugar production(in the SE US) enjoys very high tariffs (IIRC around 40%) which made it not economic in the US.

        Then again sugar farming in Brazil is basically slave labor – but when has that ever stopped anyone?

        But that’s all the color I have to add about that.

        1. Sanctuary

          No, I mean why is sugar production critical to our national security? I can see why it would be to Brazil since a high percentage of its fuel comes from sugar ethanol, but why would it be critical for US national security?

          1. craazyboy

            Oh, I see. I guess that’s my “sarc” part. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it.

            No, sugar is not critical to our national security, nor our national self sufficiency, because we are already up to our taste buds in corn sweeteners….crap. there I go again. But we did re-locate much of industry to Asia. ( I go all the way back to Japan,Inc. days dealing with that one.)

            Anyway, I then was relating my experience with researching alt energy – which was how I came to know about US sugar.

            But you’re right about Brazil – they can make the claim, and sugar ethanol is actually a cost effective and useful commodity there.

            I should also add, US sugar does lend itself well to industrial farming. (unlike something like strawberries) I did see pictures of those large combine machines mowing down sugar cane somewhere in our SE. It’s possible Big Ag has something to do with it’s preferential treatment. But I didn’t research things that far.

  8. Turnip truck

    If you’re a predatory corporate commissar, a good way to exhaust popular opposition is to wear them out with a drip-drip-drip of discrete crises. The public might stop the first treaty-law corporate coup, they might stop the second, but sooner or later the public will get tired. Then you can just come back and sneak it all through. Next week is just their first retry.

    So naturally, US media fixate on one corporate encroachment at a time. That hypes the ceremonial role of our pathetic rubber-stamp legislature. It also avoids deliberation about the current corporate mania for secret star chambers. Best of all, amnesic coverage makes everybody pro and con start from scratch with new P.R. slogans, as if this were a one-off arrangement with no overarching principles.

    Like, wouldn’t it be nice if someone were looking at this from the standpoint of superordinate legal standards any ISDS provision must meet? As it happens, about 192 countries are doing just that, only they’re doing it in the US media cone of silence so you never heard of such a thing.

    ISDS was instituted to end-run international law, human rights in particular. The outside world knows that. Civil society ex-US sees the scale of corporate encroachment. UNCTAD is taking a reformist line to ensure ISDS clauses are legitimate. The pressure is terminating old agreements and influencing new ones. But US civil society is flailing around in the dark, cut off from the outside world.

  9. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    Rupert recently installed the government of his choice in the UK, just like he uninstalled one he didn’t like here in Australia (Rudd) and put in the Fascist/Clown Abbott. He reminds me of Bush, fascism with a goofy face and lots of gaffes, a comical figure with tragic consequences for all Australians.
    But the real disappointment here in AUS is Labor, who (like the Dems in the US) just roll over for their corporate overlords at every possible chance. And since Rupert is Hilary’s biggest backer (after Goldman Squid) we can be sure he will install the corporo-fascist of his choice in America too.
    The current trendline has one apex trillionaire controlling 100% of the world’s assets, ruling over supine, sheep-like populations who don’t even know enough to squeal as they are being skewered.

  10. Synoia

    Will the Australian Government Walk Away from the TPP?

    Absolutely, sometime after the third coming of Christ, or when poodles develop social awareness (which is probably rude to poodles).

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