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Government Must Promise NZ Won’t Cave On Pharmac In TPPA

7 February 2013

For immediate release

Government Must Promise NZ Won’t Cave On Pharmac In TPPA

‘The government needs to come clean on whether it plans to cave in to US demands on medicines in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), due to reconvene in Singapore in early March’, says Professor Jane Kelsey who monitors the negotiations.

Last November Trade Minister Tim Groser signalled to the Americans that New Zealand was willing to be ‘flexible’ on new disciplines for Pharmac.

This could mean one of two things. New Zealand would either concede to US demands in the intellectual property chapter, especially pharmaceutical patents, or to the rights of Big Phrma and its local branch to have a stronger say in Pharmac’s decision-making process in the name of ‘transparency’.

It seemed pretty clear from the Minister’s statement in late November that the Cabinet had already made a decision, in secret, or was about to do so.

‘This makes no sense, given the government’s insistence that it requires genuine and substantial concessions on dairy market access to the US. The American chief negotiator reported after the Auckland round that they haven’t had any serious talks about dairy with New Zealand and are in no hurry to do so.’

Professor Kelsey noted that ‘the stakes are huge. PHARMAC's latest annual report shows it has saved the New Zealand taxpayer $5 billion over the past 12 years and expanded access to medicines while staying within budget.’

‘Giving up the fight on patents, for example, would hike up the price of medicines significantly, especially if it impacts on access to much cheaper generics’.

Professor Kelsey challenged the government to state publicly that it is not planning to give way on Pharmac in either respect, ahead of the next round in Singapore.

‘Once a concession is tabled it would be almost impossible to withdraw’.

‘The public health community should be up in arms about the imminent prospect of such a behind-closed-doors assault on affordable medicines. The Labour Party has said Pharmac is a red line. It is time it put the government on the mat to get assurances that it will not table a position that gives way on either patents or transparency.’

ENDS

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