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Thursday 16th
posted by James Tweedie in World

NEW ZEALAND trade unions warned yesterday that a secretive trade deal would raise healthcare costs for workers.

Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership have hit crunch point, with extended talks in Hawaii scheduled for the end of the month.

They are being conducted at the highest level of government and in such secrecy that the text of any agreement will not be disclosed until four years after its signing.

Three senior doctors have detailed major risks to New Zealand’s health sector from the deal’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses.

Such clauses allow firms to sue governments for loss of profits — real or hypothetical — resulting from policies such as health and safety regulations or simply refusing to privatise public services.

The doctors predicted that ISDS could see challenges to national drug-buying agency Pharmac, which saves the health sector over $1 billion (£642 million) every year.

“As doctors, our ideology is that the tobacco industry should have no right to claim payback for loss of profit when a government acts to control its product that kills,” they said.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions secretary Sam Huggard called on Prime Minister John Key to “put New Zealand ahead of global big business,” adding: “Very few New Zealanders are convinced that the TPP is a good deal.

“Opposition has been significant, across health, intellectual property, computer technology and environment sectors, among Maori and members of the public who don’t want the New Zealand government to be sued in shonky offshore tribunals for making decisions that are in the public interest.”