Health experts’ “grave concerns” about secretive TPP

By Leith van Onselen

From Fairfax’s Peter Martin this morning comes news that eight health and community organisations have written to Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, expressing “grave concerns” about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – the US-led trade deal between 12 pacific rim nations, including Australia.

According to Martin, the groups are concerned that the proposed Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause, which would allow foreign corporations to sue governments in overseas tribunals, could have dire implications for public health policies and programs:

The letter is signed by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, the Australian Health Promotion Association, the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, the Australian Medical Students Association, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, the Centre for Health Equity Training Research and Evaluation, the Public Health Advocacy Institute of Western Australia and the Public Health Association of Australia…

“If the clauses are to be included in the agreement, what we want to see is safeguards that prevent corporations from making claims against governments over policies like tobacco plain packaging, limits on alcohol advertising and food labelling requirements,” said Michael Moore of the Public Health Association of Australia. “As it stands, the chapter appears to allow these sorts of policies to be challenged.”

Separately at Fairfax, Harriet Alexander has reported that the peak lobby group for American pharmaceutical manufacturers has been given a seat at the TPP negotiating table, however, public health and community organisations have been bared from accessing the draft text, heightening the risks of poor outcomes for consumers and taxpayers:

Some of the measures that Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has publicly lobbied to be included in the Trans Pacific Partnership have subsequently appeared in draft versions of the agreement that have been leaked by Wikileaks.

…Public Health Association spokeswoman Deborah Gleeson said… “US corporations have a much higher level of access to what’s going on in the negotiations and to the text itself, whereas health and community organisations are reliant on the leaked drafts for information”…

Provisions in draft versions of the TPP, such as secondary patenting and extended data protection, were antithetical to the affordability of medicines, she said.

Of course, these concerns follow those of Australia’s primary negotiator on medicines on the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Dr Ruth Lopert, who last month warned that the TPP could force Australian taxpayers to spend millions of dollars more to subsidise medicines:

“The objective is to prolong monopolies on medicines and thereby maintain prices. While the medicine has a monopoly in the market the price can be determined by the seller”…

“The taxpayer will be paying more. Ultimately, if this affects the long-term sustainability of the PBS, that will likely be pushed onto consumers through higher co-payments.

Lopert also warned that the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that the US is seeking could lead to massive lawsuits against the Government:

“The Canadian government is being sued by Eli-Lily to the tune of $500 million dollars – [these are] not theoretical concerns these are actual concerns,” she said.

But it is not just the potential cost of these lawsuits that worries experts, it is the scope for intimidation.

“They have a chilling effect on policymakers whether to pursue certain policies [like plain packaging] that are creative and forward thinking,” Dr Lopert said.

The TPP would be a dreadful outcome for Australia, and trade minister, Andrew Robb, would be a fool to sign Australia up to it.

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Unconventional Economist
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    • surflessMEMBER

      The problem I see, which ever party is in power Liberal or Labor would sign regardless, just to appease our American Masters.

      • Even the American people are worried about this. This has been an insight into the new corporate owned world of party politics.

  1. This all smells very bad. Why are these negotiations in secret?

    “These negotiations have been conducted in secret, but more than 500 corporate “trade advisors” have access to the text of the agreement. Many of the negotiators themselves are past (and/or likely expect to be future) corporate attorneys or executives. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, for example, “received over $4 million as part of multiple exit payments when he left Citigroup to join the Obama administration,” according to a report, “Obama Admin’s TPP Trade Officials Received Hefty Bonuses From Big Banks,” by investigative journalist Lee Fang.

    This one-sided process has been causing concern among representatives of many of the key “stakeholder” groups that have been excluded from the negotiating process. Labor unions, environmental groups, consumer groups, health groups, and food-safety groups, as well as LGBT, democracy, faith, and other “stakeholders” who have been denied a seat at the TPP negotiating table, have feared that the process would produce an agreement that tilts the democracy/plutocracy power balance even further in the direction of corporations and billionaires than it is now.”

    • It’s ok, don’t you worry about all this!

      We have a war on drugs starting anew – now with focus on ice! Focus on this, not the TPP.

  2. Robb’s no fool, just a Liberal Party minister. He is, naturally, committed to the principle of securing high standards of intellectual property to maintain the rights and proper incentives for those who risk capital to pursue business endeavours for the benefit of humankind. These pharmaceutical pirates pretending to act in the public good by providing cheaper medicines are really just common criminals, stealing other’s hard (and expensively) gained property. He would be acting more negligently should be abrogate his responsibility to that fundamental principle. His role is not to cater to the base whims of ordinary citizens who can otherwise be easily silenced and distracted by shiny objects.

  3. Stinky high treason

    Robb is a piece of shit.

    As are all the fuckers who have sold us out.

    Wonder what Rand Paul would make of this.

    Gogglebox, MKR etc all – opiate for the masses to inure them against the odious roles stopping coporate cronyism from being properly forced upon the masses.

    What a horrible place the world and Australia in particular is becoming.