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Pharmac, GE free, ownership at risk in trade deal

23 September 2008
Pharmac, GE free, ownership at risk in US trade deal

The Green Party is calling on the Government to make a public commitment not to weaken Pharmac and not to weaken laws on genetic engineering or foreign ownership in any trade deal with the United States.

"Labour and National are of one mind when it comes to their commitment to market access to assist Fonterra. This makes them blind to the downsides for the rest of us," Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman says.

"It is clear that the US will try to undermine Pharmac, weaken restrictions on GE and increase foreign ownership rights in any trade deal. We must not give way on these issues or we will live to regret it as the Australians already have.

"Pharmac infuriates the giant US pharmaceutical companies by keeping the price New Zealand pays for pharmaceuticals down. Pharmac does this by buying in bulk and by buying generic drugs that have passed their patent period. This saves the New Zealand public precious tax dollars and reduces costs for consumers.

"US negotiators have been determined to break or undermine schemes that bulk-buy drugs and use generics or other measures to bring down the price of pharmaceuticals.

"In the trade negotiations with Australia, the US targeted the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and forced significant changes that will increase the cost of pharmaceuticals in Australia. They will try to do the same here. Pharmac estimated in 2004 that the measures proposed in the AUSFTA would cost them $30m - $40m per year if adopted in New Zealand.

"The US will also target our restrictions on GE organisms. In November 2002, the former US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick made it clear that restrictions on trade in biotechnology were on the agenda for the negotiations between Australia and the US. New Zealand, which is still largely GE free, would face pressure to allow more GE," Dr Norman says.

"Restrictions on foreign ownership of land and corporations will also come under pressure from the US. Our laws are already very weak but the US will want to make them weaker, as Zoellick made clear in 2002 when discussing the proposed deal with Australia.

"It is also worth remembering that any concessions made in a US trade deal will automatically flow on to China through because of our trade deal with them," Dr Norman says.


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