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Read it first in blogs

July 15th, 2004

Today’s SMH reprints a piece from the NYT on the impact of the Free Trade Agreement on pharmaceuticals. The Ozplogosphere was all over this a couple of days ago.

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  1. ML
    July 15th, 2004 at 15:23 | #1

    I have science training and management experience, not economics training, but shouldn’t we quantitatively and transparently assess all the components – of which pharmaceuticals is one – of the free trade agreement for costs and benefits, externalities included, get a net result, and if this is positive, compensate the losers ?

  2. daarons
    July 15th, 2004 at 18:17 | #2

    ML,

    Yes, but all the analysis that the Government has been putting out is that there will be no cost to Australia or Australians from the Pharmaceuticals issues. This article would tend to put lie to that assersion.

  3. July 15th, 2004 at 21:18 | #3

    Mark, that is absolutely true. There is no such thing as an effectless public world – every change chews someone up, and mostly there is no compensation. Who wants to be the owner of the sandwich shop when they move the army base?

    One argument about both the media provisions and the pharmaceuticals is that the effect is not contained. It spreads and spreads over time and reaches deep into second order consequences. A loss of an Australian voice is a loss of national identity which is profoundly important. A loss of control over our pharmaceutical prices and policy digs into our capacity to provide equitable medicine – an idea which is incidentally part of our national character, but not the Americans, our identity but not theirs.

    And the Americans want these provisions, as is clearly articulated in the NYT article, so they can fight for unregulated medicine around the world and in the US; they want to include cultural provisions as a tradable item because they want their software (what the US head of Sony – o sweet irony – calls “good copyright) to flow unimpeded round a planetary market they dominate and we are a small friendly, naive, helplessly furry victim to start on.

  4. ML
    July 16th, 2004 at 12:58 | #4

    Interesting points – and I was too hasty in my first post, leaving open the sense that I might have a decided view on the free trade agreement, which would be ironic, seeing I was proposing we should measure properly first, decide second. I should have written after result “… if this is negative, amend or not proceed…”.

    I suppose my point is a general one that words can raise alarms, and certain sorts of partial quantification can throw some light (but often is used selectively and therefore intellectually dishonestly for advocacy). I believe that only taking a holistic approach can keep things fully in perspective. And achieving it need not be exhausting – paraphrasing Tukey, a granular picture of the whole and its main features would be more strategically informative that high detail on sometimes self-interestedly selected features in isolation.

  5. July 16th, 2004 at 18:48 | #5

    Politically speaking there is plenty of discussion in the blogsphere about whether the FTA presents a problem for Labor.

    (see Tim Dunlop or Christopher Sheil.

    Can the ALP knock back the FTA after all the Premiers and Beazley have endorsed it?

    I wonder whether there is a possibility that the ALP accepts the FTA, but if it wins power it can ameriorate some of the consequences through legislation.

  6. Geoff Honnor
    July 17th, 2004 at 20:06 | #6

    Guido, I suspect that the ALP will back it – unfortunately. I’m not over the detail in respect of the whole FTA but I’ve certainly considered it at some length in respect of it’s implications for the PBS. Medium to longterm they’re not good.

    Labor’s strategy at the moment appears to be focussed on getting the government to front up with the details of the PBS drug listing decision review mechanism incorporated within the FTA. Presumably, if the government does, they can claim a minor victory in respect of transparency. If the government doesn’t, they can point to Kerry’s statement about reviewing all bilateral trade agreements within a few months of taking office. Then they’ll sign up.

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