If it gets them, Australians will wait longer for cheaper versions of those medicines.
Ours have long been kept secret, even from us.
due consideration to implementing a process through which independent modelling and analysis of a proposed trade agreement is undertaken in the future by the Productivity Commission or equivalent organisation
At the moment the committee only gets to see trade agreements after they have been signed, meaning (literally) that the Australian people don’t get to know what their government is a bout to sign until after it has signed it.
We don’t get to see what we are about to sign
Afterwards, the parliamentary committee is effectively limited to saying yes to ratification (the final step after signing) or no. It can’t suggest changes to the text.
The committee’s recommendation follows similar recommendations by previous inquiries, and a plea by the Productivity Commission for independent modelling of likely outcomes before negotiations begin, and and an independent public assessment of agreements after they are concluded, but before they are signed.
The so-called national interest analyses and regulatory impact statements prepared by negotiators are delivered after the agreements have been signed and so far have always recommended they be ratified.
One reason is that Australia already has very low or zero tariffs. Negotiators from other countries need to obtain other concessions.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership ratified by Australia in 2018 has chapters dealing with the regulation of essential services such as medicines, education, aged care, childcare, energy, financial and digital services, as well as foreign investment, labour and environment regulations and government procurement and product standards.
The European Union, the United States and Japan use the negotiations to fight for longer monopolies on medicines. Investors use them to obtain the right to sue governments; copyright owners use them to achieve longer copyright terms.
The committee could recommend that government table in parliament a document setting out its priorities and objectives at the start of each negotiation.
It could recommend an independent analysis of the costs and benefits of proposed agreements of the kind suggested by the Productivity Commission, both before signing, and also some years after signing to get an idea of whether they have lived up to their promise.
It could consider the health, environment and gender impacts, as well as the economic impacts.
These changes would give us a better idea of what’s being negotiated in our name.
- ^ Australia-European Union Free Trade Agreement (www.dfat.gov.au)
- ^ publishes (trade.ec.europa.eu)
- ^ hearing (www.aph.gov.au)
- ^ recommended (www.aph.gov.au)
- ^ not included (www.aph.gov.au)
- ^ similar recommendations (www.aph.gov.au)
- ^ Productivity Commission (www.pc.gov.au)
- ^ oversell the likely benefits (www.pc.gov.au)
- ^ always recommended they be ratified (www.pc.gov.au)
- ^ more than trade (theconversation.com)
- ^ It's more than a free trade agreement. But what exactly have Australia and Indonesia signed? (theconversation.com)
- ^ Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (www.dfat.gov.au)
- ^ European Union (theconversation.com)
- ^ the United States (theconversation.com)
- ^ Japan (theconversation.com)
- ^ sue governments (theconversation.com)
- ^ longer copyright terms (theconversation.com)
- ^ updates (trade.ec.europa.eu)
- ^ final text (trade.ec.europa.eu)
- ^ When even winning is losing. The surprising cost of defeating Philip Morris over plain packaging (theconversation.com)
- ^ permitted (www.aph.gov.au)
Authors: Patricia Ranald, Honorary research fellow, University of Sydney