Following on from my earlier warnings that the Federal Government was contemplating selling Australia out to the Americans by accepting a US-style regional regulatory framework under the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – the proposed regional trade deal between Pacific Rim countries – Deborah Gleeson, Lecture in Public Health at LaTrobe University, has provided the below worrying update on negotiations, which suggests the Coalition is engaging in a deal that could significantly undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), in turn putting at Australia’s world-class health system at risk.
From the Conversation:
Just before leaving for Singapore on December 6 for the latest Trans Pacific Partnership meeting, I wrote about some of the major concerns surrounding the secretive agreement. This is an update on developments over the four days of ministerial negotiations.
…[Most] worrying were suggestions that the group negotiating the highly sensitive intellectual property chapter included only one of the countries advocating for a fairer proposal on medicines (it is not known which of these countries was involved).
A draft of the intellectual property chapter leaked to Wikileaks in November showed the United States has continued to push for expanded and extended patent protection and exclusive rights over clinical trial data, among other provisions, that could delay access to affordable medicines.
The Australian government has maintained that it will not accept anything in the agreement that would undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or the health system.
But on the third day of talks, a leaked memo prepared as an update after the last set of talks in November revealed Australia’s support for the fairer medicines counter-proposal for the intellectual property chapter of the agreement was waning.
The memo also showed Australia had collaborated with the United States and Japan to revise the “healthcare transparency annex”, the part of the agreement that will affect the PBS.
On the final day of talks, an article in Washington Trade Daily cast further doubt on the Australian government’s claims about protecting the nation’s health and medicines policies.
It reported that:
“Australia, New Zealand and Canada, among others, dropped their objections to the high-standard disciplines in intellectual property and came on board by agreeing to the modified text. Effectively, there is consensus on the intellectual property dossier except for one developing country, WTD was told.”
“High-standard disciplines” refers to the extremely high level of intellectual property protection proposed by the United States.
While he was in Singapore, Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb’s office also made it very clear that he was prepared to agree to an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS) in the treaty, in exchange for access to other markets.
Such clauses allow foreign state investors to bypass domestic legal systems and have their case heard by trade experts…
On the same day as the memo was leaked, the Australian government blocked an order by the Senate to reveal the Trans Pacific Partnership text before it’s signed.
And 44 prominent academics and public health experts wrote to the health minister to express their concerns and to urge the government to honour the Senate order.
Today, the Senate has passed a motion noting the letter and reiterating its call for the release of the text.
I hope the delay in concluding the negotiations at a time when there’s rising concern among the Australian public will mean there is time to persuade the government to take a stance that’s conducive to a healthy agreement, a healthy country and a healthy region.
I also hope the Senate is successful in its efforts to make the text of the agreement available for public scrutiny before our government commits to its terms.
That the Coalition is willing to sell Australia out in such a secretive manner is highly disturbing. Whose interest are they working for? The Americans or the Australian public?
Do the Coalition really want Australia’s world-class health system to move in the direction of the US, which spends twice as much on health as a percentage of GDP, but has some of the worst health outcomes in the world?
As a bare minimum, the text of the TPP must be released for public and parliamentary scrutiny before they are signed, or we risk losing our sovereign rights.