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Key’s “unpopular concessions”

Written By: - Date published: 7:39 am, February 22nd, 2011 - 34 comments
Categories: Economy, overseas investment, workers' rights - Tags:

Audrey Young reports that John Key is trying to soften the ground for some “unpopular concessions” in the TPP arrangement.

He was speaking at the US-NZ Partnership Forum in Christchurch – an event sponsored by Warner Brothers.

A free trade agreement with the US could easily reduce our economic sovereignty and lead to multinationals having a hand in dictating New Zealand law. The phrase they use is “investor protections” which is a kind of code for “you will not pass any law to protect your citizens or your environment if it harms our profits.”

One of the biggest losses we could face would be the neutering of Pharmac – the pharmaceutical companies hate it because its monopsonistic structure makes it hard for them to gouge New Zealanders.

When asked about this Key’s response is typically evasive:

Asked later if he could abandon Pharmac, which bulk-buys generic medicines, he said all parties would need to confront challenges.

“But what we will do is once we can get a clear sense of what is required to make the deal work, then we will go back and analyse the benefits of that.

“In the end, we’re not going to sign any deal unless we believe it has a net benefit to New Zealand.”

This from a man who gave Warners tens of millions of dollars and an employment law change and then tried to pass it off as a “good deal”. I’m not reassured at all.

34 comments on “Key’s “unpopular concessions” ”

  1. illuminatedtiger 1

    The length and depth of media coverage on this issue has been disgusting. What the TPP does is attack our sovereignty and allow “investors” the right to sue us for our own laws. If we one day decide to move to plain packet tobacco we could be hit by a lawsuit by Phillip Morris or BAT. Great!

    Captcha: unpleasant

  2. lprent 2

    I get the impression that John Key is about the worst negotiator we have. He should really just stick to acting as a clothes horse.

    Speaking as someone who is going to be swallowing pills for the rest of my (long) life. Pharmac is one of the best innovations we have come up with. It’d take a lot of benefits to compensate for destroying that to satisfy some rather costly marketing ideas from the drugs companies.

    To date I haven’t seen any credible claimed benefits from the TPP especially since we have what amounts to free trade with almost all of the participants already. At this point I think that the TPP is a crock.

    In fact I think that Labour should have close look at it and be prepared to dump it if passed.

    • Tigger 2.1

      Indeed lp, Labour also need to look at what ‘benefit’ means. When Key says it I have no doubt he is purely speaking about monetary benefit. But there are monetary benefits that will be meaningless if we lose sovereignty. And too often money gained elsewhere (eg. agriculture) is lost in another part of the economy.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      The only reliable evidence I’ve seen came out of Wikileaks and showed that the top NZ negotiator for TPPA didn’t think there was any benefit in it for NZ. That, though, seems not to have made the MSM.

    • handle 2.3

      “Net benefit” means so long as farmers, big business and our American overlords make out like bandits, shafting New Zealanders who depend on cheaper medicines is just collateral damage.

  3. higherstandard 3

    PHARMAC will not disappear under a TPP.

    They purchase pharmaceuticals on behalf of DHBs they are not a regulator who decides what is or isn’t registered and able to be sold in NZ, the multinational pharmaceutical companies are no longer interested in NZ as we are tiny and structures similar to PHARMAC have been set up in a number of jurisdictions around the world.

    • Marty G 3.1

      PHARMAC exercises market power as a monopsony. The Yanks have wanted it gone for years.

    • Rosy 3.2

      Medsafe might decide what can be sold, but pharmac makes the decisions about what is available, and a big part of that decision is price, on it’s own and in relation to alternatives. The multinationals are concerned the pharmac model might be copied in other countries.

      • higherstandard 3.2.1

        Rosy perhaps you might like to have a look at some of the purchasing models in Europe and Canada and the soon to be implemented pricing strictures under the PBAC in Australia.

        PHARMAC also does not decide what is available they decide on what will be available at what price on the pharmaceutical schedule, anyone can still be prescribed anything registered via medsafe and if it is not funded via the pharmaceutical schedule or provided by the DHB they can pay for it.

        • Rosy

          point taken – pharmac model, and similar models in Aust and Canada might be copied in the U.S.A – where the big profits are, and are especially if we have a free trade agreement.
          I’m sure the drugs companies are more interested in getting on the pharmaceutical schedule at their price than they are about having drugs bought by individuals outside of the pharmaceutical schedule. And BTW do you know many highly specialised meds, antibiotics, heart pills, diabetes treatments etc, etc are bought outside of the pharmaceutical schedule? And how many private health companies will pay out for meds not on the pharmaceutical schedule?

          • Lanthanide

            “And how many private health companies will pay out for meds not on the pharmaceutical schedule?”
            The health insurance provided through my work, which is “rated one of the best on the market” does not cover non-pharmac drugs.

  4. Hilary 4

    We actually need to get rid of Direct to Consumer Marketing of pharmaceuticals (ie drug ads). NZ and the US the only countries to allow it. It’s one way the drug companies get around the Pharmac monopsony.

    • higherstandard 4.1

      Why get rid of DTC of Rx pharmaceuticals ? Prescribers don’t have to prescribe what is advertised or what patients ask for – what ads do you have a problem with I can’t remember seeing a DTC Rx pharmaceutical advertisement for a long time apart from the viagra/cialis meds and they aren’t funded via the pharmaceutical schedule anyway.

  5. Colonial Viper 5

    Large pharmaceutical corporates are a corrosive to any country’s health system. It is common for drugs to retail in the US for 30-50% more than 10 miles across the border in Canada. There is a virtual industry of elderly people making semi-regular trips to Canada/Mexico to try and reduce the costs of their prescription drugs.

    John Key’s personality is such that he needs to please those people whom he finds important and influential. That’s one element of what makes him such a loser at negotiations. With him in charge we have no hope in these multi-lateral discussions.

    Our Opposition parties need to be raising hell about this Corporate Rights agreement.

    • higherstandard 5.1

      Oh what rubbish, most of the on patent medicines are provided via large multinationals how is that corrosive to a country’s health system ?

      Even though on patent medicines in the US are probably more expensive than anywhere else in the world just as in NZ when a medicine comes of patent in the US its sales and pricing plummets with the insurers making sure that people are prescribed cheaper generic alternatives.

      • bbfloyd 5.1.1

        it’s not rubbish hs. in fact you are the one dribbling ignorant rubbish.. you either have no freinds or family who have high health costs, or you lack the depth to fully appreciate the reality that would exist if pharmac wasn’t there to ensure nz’ers aren’t gouged by companies who have proved incapable of a social conscience.

  6. ianmac 6

    Pharmac is regarded with envy around the world for its independence, its research, and ability to get good deals. Though Dr John Key was able to bypass Pharmac systems because he had deep medical knowledge. He directed Pharmac to supply full delivery of Herceptin.

    • higherstandard 6.1

      Pharmac is regarded with envy around the world for its ability to get good deals.

      It is not independent it is a QANGO and it does no research.

      • Bunji 6.1.1

        It is not independent it is a QANGO and it does no research.

        I think they’d beg to differ on the research.

        And Quasi-Autonomous Non-Government Organisation – what’s not independent about that? That’s the whole point of QANGOs…

        • higherstandard

          Bunji it is paid and funded by the government of the day to get the best deal it can on on and off patent pharmaceuticals and does a very good job at it indeed – if by independent you mean independent from multinational pharma companies and their influence absolutely agree with that comment.

          Not sure what you’re trying to suggest with the link to PTAC ?

          • bbfloyd

            you don’t seem to understand much hs… maybe it’s time for you to back out of this one.

          • Ari

            Even with the Herceptin issue, government couldn’t lean on Pharmac to change its mind, they had to fund it directly. So I’m really not sure who you’re implying they’re not independent of if you’ve conceded they’re also independent from the business lobby.

      • Colonial Viper 6.1.2

        Pharmac is regarded with envy around the world for its ability to get good deals.

        It’s regarded with hatred around the world in other quarters, but for exactly the same reasons.

        • ianmac

          The Research is into the literature and research-records on the effectiveness of pharmacuticals.

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      If you enquire, you will find that hospitals have seen quite a few herceptin patients suffer severe adverse effects from that drug requiring ongoing additional treatment. Apart from the original cost of the herceptin, that additional follow up care is a drain on our health services.

      And I’d love to see if breast cancer recurrences have been moved at all by the extended use of herceptin.

      • higherstandard 6.2.1


        “pooled results from that five randomized trials of adjuvant Trastuzumab showed a significant reduction of mortality (p < 0.00001), recurrence (p < 0.00001), metastases rates (p < 0.00001) and second tumors other than breast cancer (p = 0.007) as compared to no adjuvant Trastuzumab patients.

        There were more grade III or IV cardiac toxicity after trastuzumab (203/4555 = 4.5%) versus no trastuzumab (86/4562 = 1.8%). The likelihood of cardiac toxicity was 2.45-fold higher (95% CI 1.89 – 3.16) in trastuzumab arms, however that result was associated with heterogeneity. The likelihood of brain metastases was 1.82-fold higher (95% CI 1.16 – 2.85) in patients who received trastuzumab."

        • Draco T Bastard

          That doesn’t address extended use of Herceptin.

          Trastuzumab administered i.v. at any dose and for any time of duration in the adjuvant setting.

          In fact, it only addresses if it was used or not. So, doesn’t answer CV’s question.

          • Colonial Viper

            Further, I want data on the effect (good and bad) it has had on NZ patients, not foreigners in these studies who may have vastly different ethnic, lifestyle and genetic makeups to our own population.

            five randomized trials of adjuvant Trastuzumab showed a significant reduction of mortality

            Bloody statisticians. So the reduction in the probability of mortality was statistically significant, but did the size of that reduction mean that many fewer people actually died?

  7. Pharmac is just one example – the TPPA and its ilk will be insidious as well as obvious. Secret deals out in the open – the best way to hide them. This issue should be coupled with the liarkey and branki issues so that it is stopped – pin this on key and we may have a chance – he is using up his political capital fast and they will not like it.

  8. JonL 8

    Any “free trade” deal with the USA will be of advantage, only, to the USA. Everyone else will (and has, from other countries) been royally shafted!
    Secret deals behind closed doors mean squat in the long term! I, for one , will not be bound by any trading off of NZ citizens rights for some dubious deals by rich arseholes, for other rich arseholes!

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