Malaysia

Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement will see medicine price hike, MP warns

By Jennifer gomez and yiswaree palansamy
July 10, 2013

Signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) will see an increase in the cost of medicines, an MP said today.

This is because the TPPA would limit access to generic medications when intellectual property rights come into play, said Klang MP Charles Santiago.

"Currently, it costs RM136,000 for 18 cycles of medicines for a breast cancer patient. This will go up further if TPPA comes into  play," he said.

Santiago said the average Malaysian will not be able to afford medication and if they are poor and sick, they will be in serious trouble.

He cited the example of a similar trade agreement signed between the US and Jordan which saw the cost of medicine increase by 20 to 30 per cent.

Other than higher cost of medicines, there is also concern that the government's policy making powers will be curtailed if Malaysia goes ahead with the TPPA.

"We in Parliament make the law, but that law can be overturned by a two or three member tribunal outside Malaysia and that cannot be brought again before our court of law, so it raises the issue of sovereignty," Santiago said.

He added that the Malaysian government was not engaging the stakeholders but instead ongoing negotiations with member countries are kept under wraps.

"The level of consultation on a scale of one  to 10 is  zero. This is the key problem we are facing and also secrecy seems to be the Malaysian government's number one priority.

"In more mature economies which are part of the TPPA negotiations, the element of secrecy does not arise," he said.

He added that there is a chapter on labour in the TPPA but in Malaysia, the government did not even consult the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), the largest labour body, for their input.

Santiago was speaking to reporters after a roundtable discussion with non-governmental organisations and representatives with TPPA member countries, namely Australia, Canada, US, Chile and New Zealand today.

He also said that a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report revealed that Malaysia would not benefit from trade with the US.

Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen said there was a need to look at the cost benefit analysis and  the fiscal impact for the country, if it signs the TPPA.

He said US officials had said that Malaysia's exports would total US$40 billion (about RM120 billion) under the TPPA.

He said based on the assumption that Malaysian companies would make a 10 per cent net profit on this, it would translate to a gain of RM3 billion yearly to the Malaysian budget, based on a 25 per cent tax rate.

"So we need to analyse this RM3 billion gain against the losses in terms of higher pharmaceutical costs, loss of sovereign rights, and our economic model. We want the government to engage us on this most basic level," Wong added.

Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said while the government had agreed to set up a parliamentary caucus on the TPPA, it was too late as the agreement is slated to be concluded at the APEC in Bali, Indonesia, in October. - July 10, 2013.