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.