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Thursday 20th
posted by James Tweedie in World

Opposition to secretive trade deal grows

NEW ZEALAND doctors joined trade unionists yesterday to refute PM John Key’s claims that mass opposition to a shady free trade deal was “misinformed.”

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the country against the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at the weekend — but the National Party leader has dismissed them as “rent-a-crowd.”

Mr Key said protesters’ objections were manageable and they should wait until they see the deal.

But Council of Trade Unions (CTU) national secretary Sam Huggard shot back on Tuesday: “Rather than showing how out of touch they are with the genuine concerns of a fast-growing number of New Zealanders, they should show us what is in the text so we can see for ourselves.

“All they offer is to show us the text after the deal is done and it’s too late.

“They have a record for hiding the truth by withholding official papers and pretending the papers support their story until they are released and the government is found out. What are they hiding in the TPP?”

Trade Minister Tim Groser has been negotiating the pact in secret with counterparts from 11 other Pacific Rim countries.

Doctors have warned that the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause of the agreement could see challenges to national drug-buying agency Pharmac, which the agency estimates saved 1.2 billion New Zealand dollars (£500 million) in health spending last year.

Doctors for Healthy Trade’s Dr Erik Monasterio said: “Minister Groser and Prime Minister Key continue to trot out the line that we, the ideologically misguided and uninformed health professionals, are needlessly worrying about Pharmac.

“It is unfortunate that senior politicians have trivialised concerns of many dedicated, well-informed professionals. The cost of medicines to the health system is a genuine concern.”

Associate Professor David Menkes cautioned that moves to extend drug patents as part of TPP’s race to the bottom in regulation would also increase healthcare costs and open the door to foreign companies to sue the country for lost profits.