Minister should resist tradeoffs

Press Release – AFTINET

Trade Minister Robb should resist tradeoffs on medicines and investor rights to sue governments at August TPP meeting August 3, 2015
Trade Minister Robb should resist tradeoffs on medicines and investor rights to sue governments at August TPP meeting

“The failure of TPP Ministers to reach agreement in what was supposed to be the final round of negotiations last week vindicates the deep concerns of community groups that the TPP is secretly trading away issues like access to affordable medicines and governments’ right to regulate without being sued by foreign corporations. These are issues which should be decided though open democratic parliamentary processes,not secretly traded away for token access to sugar or dairy markets,” said Dr Patricia Ranald, Coordinator of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network.

Ministers failed to reach agreement, but claimed “significant progress” and said “intensive work” will continue. Another Ministerial Meeting may be held at the end of August.

“We are pleased that governments failed to reach agreement on key sticking points about extension of monopolies and corporate rights which should not even be on the table in so–called free trade negotiations, said Dr Ranald. These are:

• Extension of monopolies on costly biologic medicines which would cost the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme hundreds of millions of dollars for every year of delay for cheaper versions to become available. This would lead to pressure for higher prices at the chemist.

• Special rights for foreign investors to sue governments in international tribunals if they can argue that a change in domestic law or policy ‘harms” their investment. There are increasing numbers of cases against health and environmental law, like the Philip Morris tobacco company case against Australia’s plain packaging law, which has cost the Australian Government $50 million in legal fees and is still not finished after four years. Proposed ‘safeguards’ have not prevented such cases.”

“The US has been driving this agenda on behalf of its most powerful export industries for five years. It is now rushing to finish to a timetable set by the US presidential elections, because the TPP is so unpopular in the US that neither side wants to defend it in an electoral race. The Australian and other governments should resist this pressure at the proposed August meeting. It is not in the national interest to trade medicines and ISDS for sugar or other concessions,” said Dr Ranald.

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