Cost of medicine still likely to rise under TPP deal – academic Jane Kelsey

The TPP trade deal has attracted protests up and down the country

The TPP trade deal has attracted protests up and down the country

An outspoken critic of the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal claims the release of the text proves an increase in the cost of medicine is inevitable.

TPP opponent and law professor Jane Kelsey said the issue of increased medicine costs was "far from out of the woods".

Thousands of pages of documents detailing the sweeping provisions of the TPP were posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website by New Zealand on behalf of TPP member countries on Thursday night.

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The website said the text would continue to undergo legal review and would be translated into French and Spanish language versions prior to signatures.

The deal was completed on October 5 and member governments said they were aiming to release the text within 30 days.

But a number of provisions in the trade deal are highly controversial and that could stall or even halt its passage in the United States, without which the deal would fall apart.

Trade Minister Tim Groser at the Trans-Pacific Partnership press conference.
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Trade Minister Tim Groser at the Trans-Pacific Partnership press conference.

Kelsey told Radio NZ there had been "a lot of tinkering around the edges but the fundamental issues remain".

The biggest concerns were around new biologic medicines – the "high impact low consequence cancer medicine that will be important in the future" – and the vague wording around it in the TPP, she said.

"New Zealand says we're ok and don't need to change anything, but the US is likely to say they need to tighten up the rules on generics and it will increase the costs of medicines in the future."

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She said it would likely be another two years at least before the agreement was ratified in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Government faces opposition after the deal failed to deliver big gains for dairy, our largest export product.

There has also been alarm over "investor state" provisions in the agreement which opponents say allow foreign companies to challenge domestic rules and regulations and potentially win millions of dollars in damages.

But the Government says the TPP accounts for 40 per cent of the world economy and is too important to walk away from.

The Greens are calling for the Government to commit to an extended timeframe for select committee consultation on the deal and public hearings throughout the country.

"The Government should commit to a longer-than-usual consultation timeframe so all interested parties have time to fully understand the 6,000 pages of TPPA text and associated documents and make informed contributions to the discussion," Green trade spokesman Kennedy Graham said.

Trade Minister Tim Groser welcomed the release of the text.

 "I am pleased that this has happened and that the public will be able to thoroughly review the full text of the TPP well before it will be signed by governments.

"This is a complex agreement, with 30 Chapters and associated annexes. The large number of documents released today amount to over 6,000 pages of text and market access schedules. Understanding the legal obligations of the TPP will require careful analysis of all documents, given the inter-relationship between many provisions in the Agreement. 

"Following signature, TPP, like any free trade agreement, will need to go through New Zealand's Parliamentary processes," Groser said.

"The Government has already released a number of fact sheets outlining the content of the TPP. Also released today is additional information on the estimated economic benefits of TPP on the New Zealand economy, and details on how potential costs associated with copyright and administrative provisions relating to PHARMAC have been arrived at."

The Government was still to release a legal summary of the Agreement.

The deal is a boon to New Zealand exporters, wiping tariffs on a range of goods exported to the US, Japan, Canada, Mexico and Peru.

The government estimates its worth at least $2.7 billion a year by 2030 for New Zealand at a minimum.

Sectors getting the most benefit include beef, fruit and vegetables, sheep meat, forestry products, seafood, wine and industrial products.

Kelsey said the legal text was not enough on its own.

"We need to see the background documents that help make sense of the text, but the parties have vowed to keep secret for effectively another six years."

"We also need the various analyses the New Zealand government has relied on when talking up the benefits and playing down the costs. They have been coy about who has done this work, especially the projections of $2.7b benefits for the economy, and stalled on Official Information Act requests to release them, despite the High Court's rebuke last month."

 

 - Stuff

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