In June this year, Prime Minister John Key stated that “New Zealand is never going to sign up to the TPP unless it is in New Zealand’s best interests”. As the TPPA negotiations enter their final stages in Hawaii, these increasingly seem like hollow words. The little information that we have about the draft agreement points to large windfalls for multinational corporations but limited benefits for anyone else. Comments made by the Prime Minister today do not exactly assuage these concerns.
This morning, Mr Key warned that the TPPA would likely lead to longer patents for pharmaceutical drugs. The result would be that drug-buying agency Pharmac would have to purchase more expensive, original versions of medications for longer as opposed to cheaper generic substitutes. According to some of New Zealand’s top medical researchers, the cost to Pharmac could be up to $50 million a year, and in all likelihood would be passed on to patients. In comparison, the supposed gains to dairy from the TPPA are estimated by the US Department of Agriculture to be only around $37 million a year by 2025. How then is it in the “best interests” of New Zealand to pay more for medications in order to fund the ballooning profits of corporations like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline?
This is just the latest in a string of revelations to do with how the TPP might affect Pharmac. Leaked documents obtained by Wikileaks in June revealed that corporations might be able to interfere with Pharmac’s decision-making process. At the moment, our Pharmac system works well precisely because it is independent. Giving companies the ability to interfere would only compromise the ability of Pharmac to obtain cost savings. Indeed, that is precisely why these corporations want such provisions included.
It seems that years of negotiations over the TPPA are about to be concluded. Once they are, New Zealanders will be able to review the TPPA for themselves and judge whether it is in their best interests. The signs are not encouraging.