Iain, Maryan and Clare have all written on the problems with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, in particular the threat posed by a push by the US pharamaceutical industry to Pharmac, New Zealand’s drug buying agency. Lobbyists are on the case on behalf of the US companies, as they attempt to make changes through the negotiations.
There is a good piece on-line today that highlights the growing campaign, and the opposition to it.
Essentially, Pharmac is the government’s drug buyer, and has control over what subsidised drugs are available to New Zealanders. While there might be criticisms of individual decisions by Pharmac (think Herceptin), there is no doubt they have saved New Zealand millions of dollars through being able to bid down prices and obtain generic drugs.
Gareth Morgan and Geoff Simmons are quoted in the article above. In their work on the health sector have become big fans of the Pharmac model. They support the model not only because it has kept costs down, but also because the stringent approach from Pharmac has meant that tried and true drugs are approved rather than experimental ones that have had to be withdrawn from other markets.
Its good to see support for Pharmac from the government in the article above, though it does not completely re-assure me in terms of the TPPA negotiations. We need a definitive statement from the government that playing around with Pharmac’s mandate is off the table in the negotiations.
I have long been a supporter of quality free-trade agreements where New Zealand exporters can get demonstrable benefits, and where we can continue to manage our economy and society as we see fit. However, in addition to the concerns about the transparency of the TPPA (which are important), I am struggling with what New Zealand can get from this agreement. The chances of a decent advance on agricultural access are highly unlikely. More to the point we have very little left to negotiate with. The “lay down misere” approach that New Zealand took to trade negotiations in the 1990s has left us with almost no cards to play in these discussions. As the TPPA negotiations continue it gets harder to see what we will get from it, and easier to see how our economic sovereignty could be compromised.