Secret agreement that will make you sick

Written By komlim puldel on Jumat, 24 Oktober 2014 | 20.01

Prescriptions could cost consumers more for longer, according to Choice. Source: Getty Images

IT IS the top secret agreement which could not only lead to higher prices but will literally make you sick.

And consumer advocacy group Choice claim the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) being held in Sydney tomorrow, spells bad news for Australian consumers in more ways than one.

It claims consumers have been locked out of TPP talks while businesses haven't and documents released by WikiLeaks reveal what is being negotiated on consumers' behalf.

According to Choice, not only can we expect higher medicine prices, but Australians should also fear new criminal penalties and the right for big businesses to sue if they don't like consumer laws.

It also claims leaked copies of the TPP include provisions to lengthen patents for some lifesaving drugs for up to an extra 12 years and patients could be paying more for drugs for longer.

"While big business has had a seat at the table, Australian consumers have been locked out of negotiations," Choice Campaigns Manager Erin Turner said.

"Instead, we have to rely on leaked documents to learn what is being negotiated our behalf.

"Australia has an extremely open economy with few tariffs and trade barriers, and this raises the critical question — what are we offering up in these negotiations?"

Choice is calling on the government to release details of the TPP so the public can have a transparent debate on the issue.

Ms Turner warned Australians could end up paying dearly in the long run.

"When drugs listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme come off patent, prices drop by 16 per cent," she said.

"If the TPP extends patents we'll be paying higher prices for some medicines over a longer period of time.

"This is even more concerning given our latest Consumer Pulse survey results, which found 63 per cent of Australians are concerned about the cost of medicines. Concern increased to

66 per cent for people who earn $50,000 per annum or less and 67 per cent among parents."

She added the Federal Government needed to be cautious of any agreement which put the interests of pharmaceutical companies over consumers.

Choice predicts how the TPP will affect the Australian public. Source: Supplied

But Ms Turner warned that wasn't the only thing Australians should be worried about.

According to a leaked chapter, there will be harsh penalties for copyright infringement which goes beyond current laws, and those who download just one song could find themselves in huge trouble.

Ms Turner also said giving big businesses the right to sue would ultimately make it harder for the Australian government to pass new legislation, including consumer protection laws, in the future.

"Choice doesn't believe that a foreign business should have the right to overturn decisions made by the Australian Government, or the Australian High Court," Ms Turner said.

"However, the likely inclusion of 'investor-state dispute settlement' mechanisms in the TPP will have this effect."

While acknowledging trade agreements were sensitive matters Ms Turner said when it has the potential to increase cost of living pressures on Australians, it becomes a matter of public

interest and should be released for public debate.

According to WikiLeaks, the TPP is the world's largest economic trade agreement which if it comes into force, will encompass more than 40 per cent of the world's GDP.

It added experts said it affect freedom of information, civil liberties and access to medicines around the world.

The TPP us being negotiated in secret by 12 countries, including Australia, with governments having full access to the draft agreement while the public have nothing, a WikiLeaks press release said.

WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange said it had a duty to reveal what is in the TPP.

"The selective secrecy surrounding the TPP negotiations, which has let in a few cashed-up megacorps but excluded everyone else, reveals a fear of public scrutiny," he said.

"By publishing this text we allow the public to engage in issues that will have such a fundamental impact on their lives."

In a statement given to news.com.au, Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said the public would be informed of the agreement in due course.

Mr Robb said Australia was focused on ensuring the TPP will be a high-quality, comprehensive trade agreement, which will deliver strong economic outcomes for the country.

"The TPP will forge close links between Australia and strong and growing markets in our region, enhance competitiveness, benefit Australian consumers and create Australian jobs," he said.

"The Australian Government continues to take all available opportunities to engage with stakeholders. When negotiations are concluded, the normal ratification processes will include extensive public and parliamentary consultation."

Choice have urged people to take action on Twitter by asking @AndrewRobbmp to #ReleaseTheText

Here's just a few of the responses so far.


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