24 Oct 2016

Concern over medicine costs under RCEP

7:56 pm on 24 October 2016

The Asian version of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) must not be allowed to make life-saving medicines more expensive in poor countries, the Public Health Association says.

An aerial view of a container ship carrying exports (file)

Photo: 123RF

If agreement is reached on the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), new trade regulations would be introduced between New Zealand and 15 countries, mainly in south-east Asia.

It covers three billion people and represents 27 percent of global trade, with a combined national output of $US23 trillion*.

The association's chief executive, Warren Lindberg, said the same concerns existed about this deal as about the wider TPP.

"That is, that instead of it promoting free trade it actually protects the powers of the pharmaceutical industry to increase the costs for medicines," he said.

New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay has urged negotiators to press ahead and put their countries' offers to open up markets on the table, saying New Zealand would not sign up to RCEP unless there were tangible benefits in doing so.

New Zealand International Business Forum executive director Stephen Jacobi said RCEP would give New Zealand an important foothold in India.

However, prominent anti-TPP critic Jane Kelsey, a University of Auckland law professor, said RCEP was a "Chinese-led TPPA" and shared many of the same weaknesses.

* There are 16 countries involved in RCEP: the 10 members of ASEAN - Brunei-Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - plus the six countries with which ASEAN has free trade agreements: Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand.

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