TPP Senate inquiry urgent in the face of even stronger medicine monopolies

***UPDATE:  A Senate inquiry was established on September 15***

12 September 2016

Sixty diverse Australian civil society organisations, representing two million Australians, have called for a Senate inquiry into the TPP before Parliament votes on the TPP’s implementing legislation. This call is now even more urgent after recent revelations that the US is pushing for even stronger monopoly rights for lifesaving biologic medicines in  the TPP.

US pushes for stronger TPP monopolies for lifesaving biologic drugs

US Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach recently sounded the warning in an op-ed for the Huffington Post that the TPP is by no means dead. She pointed out that recent statements by Republicans should be understood as attempts to negotiate for changes which would deliver even more “corporate goodies” like longer medicine monopolies.

Reports last week suggest that they are making progress. According to Bloomberg, US Senate Finance Committee said that the US administration was “making progress” in talks with Australia and other TPP countries to find a way to increase data protection for biologics drugs and had talked with Australian trade minister Steven Ciobo about how to solve the problem.

Senator Hatch reportedly said: “They're going to have to find a way of having the countries agree to change that formality in the TPP to 12 years... If Australia wants to be part of it, they have to meet our terms.”

The current TPP text extends data protection (effectively an extra form of monopoly rights) from five years to eight years. Those three extra years are already bad enough and have formed a key part of AFTINET’s campaign against the current TPP. We have repeatedly pointed out that each year cheaper versions of medicines are delayed from entering the market would cost the PBS hundreds of millions of dollars.

As AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald told the media, this latest demand from the US “highlights the flaws in the TPP, which is not about free trade, but is about the extension of monopolies and corporate rights.”

Senate inquiry first step towards blocking the TPP in Australia

We can’t know whether the US will succeed in passing the TPP this year or not or whether Australia will concede to these latest demands. But we do know that the Turnbull Government has every intention of ratifying the TPP in Australia, and has refused to conduct independent assessments of the economic, health and other impacts of the TPP.

Because the Coalition Government does not have a majority in the Senate, a Senate Inquiry is an opportunity to examine the TPP before Parliament votes on the implementing legislation. It is also an opportunity for AFTINET and the sixty diverse organisations endorsing the call for an inquiry to have their voices heard.

Despite our campaign in the lead up to the election, and despite their positive trade policy platform, Labor has not yet made any decision about how they will vote when the TPP legislation comes through Parliament. A senate inquiry will both delay the vote in Parliament and help to bring the TPP into focus.

You can support our call for a Senate inquiry by writing to Opposition Trade Minister Jason Clare or visiting your Labor MP or Senator.