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<nettime> Australia: Raising Pharma Prices is Key US Trade Goal
nettime's_roving_reporter on Fri, 24 Oct 2003 18:06:03 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Australia: Raising Pharma Prices is Key US Trade Goal

     [via <james.love {AT} cptech.org>, via <tbyfield {AT} panix.com>]

< http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/10/23/1066631568709.html >

Bush wants end to medicine subsidies

By Tim Colebatch
Economics Editor
October 24, 2003
President George Bush has put the future of Australia's cheap
pharmaceuticals in question, telling Prime Minister John Howard that
raising their prices is a key goal for United States negotiators in any
free trade deal.

A senior Australian official said President Bush singled out changes to
the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme as an area where he is under heavy
political pressure to deliver benefits to domestic constituencies. The
US pharmaceutical industry outspent even the oil industry to be the
biggest financier of Republican candidates at last year's Congressional

Australia's scheme has given it some of the West's cheapest
pharmaceuticals by making the Government a monopoly buyer, a power it
has used to squeeze prices.

Mr Bush said his industry believes some countries do not pay their share
of the cost of research and development to create new medicines, making
US consumers pay the bill.

The official said Mr Howard gave no ground on the issue, saying US
negotiators need to understand how Australia's system works. But for the
first time, the PM offered to limit Australia's freedom to set local
content rules on future forms of delivering TV programs.

In talks between the two leaders in Mr Howard's Parliament House office,
the Prime Minister emphasised that gaining "significant" benefits for
agricultural exports was Australia's central goal, and it was willing to
make concessions in other areas to achieve this. He said Australia would
not undo longstanding policies such as local content rules on existing
media, but could be "fairly flexible" about new media forms.

The Australian film, IT and communications industries strongly oppose
this, warning that it would kill off local content rules - and hence
threaten local TV production - as digital TV services take over.

Mr Howard also hinted that Australia would consider undoing its parallel
imports regime, which allows cheap CDs and tapes to be imported from any
country. US recording companies say this has opened the way to
intellectual piracy.

Both leaders repeated their pledge to complete negotiations by the end
of this year. But Mr Bush qualified this by saying that "the shape of
what the deal looks like" needs to be resolved by then, implying that
the detail could take more time.

The US negotiating team, led by Assistant Trade Representative Ralph
Ives, arrives at the weekend for a week of talks, which could wrap up
some of the 17 areas of negotiation.

Trade Minister Mark Vaile and US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick
will then confer by phone to try to work out what trade-offs would be
needed to put a deal together. Mr Vaile told Mr Bush at the Lodge
barbecue that he was prepared to fly to the US any time in December for
final talks with Mr Zoellick.

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