CHF works to achieve safe, quality, timely healthcare for all Australians, supported by accessible health information and systems. As such, CHF’s primary concern around the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations is the impact that these arrangements will have on Australian health consumers. In our submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), we have raised the following issues and concerns.
Investor State Dispute Settlement
Current media reports suggest that the United States Trade led negotiations on the TPP contain some extreme trade provisions that have the potential to undermine the ability of member governments to effectively regulate health policy.
CHF is concerned that leaked draft copies of the agreement text include objectionable trade provisions. An example is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism being negotiated for the TPP, which would allow foreign investors to mount legal challenges against governments over policies or laws which they feel adversely impact their financial investments.
Australia is already facing one such legal battle by tobacco multinational Philip Morris’ Hong Kong based subsidiary, which commenced an investment treaty claim against Australia. The company claims that Australia’s plain cigarette packaging legislation is a breach of Australia’s 1993 bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with Hong Kong. The costs of arbitration under ISDS can amount to millions of dollars and the process itself is reported to be highly flawed.
Any such provision would be a significant barrier to the implementation of regulatory health policy. CHF strongly opposes the inclusion of any investor-state dispute settlement clauses in the TPP.
Leaked versions of the negotiation text also suggest that an annex to the transparency chapter proposed by the US would constrain the operation of pharmaceutical pricing and reimbursement programs such as Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS). This would prevent the use of effective pricing mechanisms and increase the influence of the pharmaceutical industry over decision making.
The PBS is the main funding mechanism for prescription medicines in Australia, and its ongoing sustainability is a critical concern for all consumers. It is unacceptable that any confidential trade negotiation should seek to influence outcomes of government health policy in any way, shape or form.
This article was originally published on Consumers Health Forum blog.