Tomorrow, the 4th of February, the Government is signing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) in Auckland, along with eleven other countries.
I’ve been travelling around for the last few weeks and talking about why it’s important we walk away, for our health and our human rights.
This ‘partnership’ agreement they are signing is not an equal or healthy one and I’m really worried.
I’m worried that Pharmac is going to have to pay more for essential medicine. If just one company holds a patent for a longer time, they can charge whatever they like – for example, up to $300,000 per patient for a cancer drug like Keytruda. This could cost us hundreds of millions of dollars in the long run and people we love could miss out on care they need.
I’m worried that foreign tobacco companies can demand they ‘help’ us write the laws on tobacco control. Even if they can’t sue us directly, they can ask their own Governments to do it for them. We need to have the right to make our own laws. I’m worried other companies, like Coca-Cola, or casinos, or oil companies, will use this agreement to go after a small country like us if we do things against their interests. Even law changes like removing the GST on fresh fruit and vegetables could be at risk. Protecting our own health should be our decision, not theirs.
I’m worried for our hospitals. If DHB services are contracted out to private companies, it could be really hard to get these services back in the future. Under the TPPA, we couldn’t do anything that ‘favours’ services owned and supplied by the people, versus for-profit companies. The American health system has been taken over by huge multi-national insurers, and we don’t want to end up in the mess they are in!
Thankfully, it’s far from over. Although the Government is signing the agreement tomorrow, they have to change a lot of law in parliament for it to begin. Every time they do this, we have the opportunity to tell them it’s not ok. We need them to know it’s a really unpopular move for any Government to sign away our rights.
Keeping our independence to decide what’s healthy for our country is keeping our strength. Nurses and health workers in America, Australia and around the Pacific Rim are sending their governments the same message.
Tomorrow I’m standing with them, against the TPPA and for partnerships which protect health and human rights, and I’m asking you to join me.
Details of the rallies against the signing can be found here.
If you want to read up on the TPPA text in more detail, check out my speech notes from the speaking tour on my blog.