There’s no need to amend the FTA legislation now

It’s not hard to get the feel­ing that both sides in “this”: debate are mak­ing a mon­u­men­tal polit­i­cal hash of the real prob­lems in pur­suit of what Tony Abbott called—with iron­ic can­dor—vain polit­i­cal ambi­tion. I think Kim Weatherall’s “assessment”: is basi­cal­ly cor­rect; there may be a real prob­lem here and it’s unlike­ly that Labor’s pro­posed amend­ment will solve the prob­lem. The pity of this debate is that the appar­ent fault in the Agree­ment does not need to be solved now in an amend­ment to the FTA imple­ment­ing leg­is­la­tion. The leg­is­la­tion can safe­ly be passed now, bring­ing the Agree­ment into force next year, after the elec­tion. There will be ample time then to con­sid­er a prop­er approach to the res­o­lu­tion of the under­ly­ing issue based on a more thought­ful amend­ment to the patents leg­is­la­tion address­ing the issue of “ever­green­ing”, which clear­ly goes much wider than the FTA with the Unit­ed States. After all, there are large Euro­pean drugs com­pa­nies who are equal­ly aggres­sive paten­ters of drugs and who also sup­ply the PBS. Pre­sum­ably, ever­green­ing is also a means that the Euro­pean firms may use to min­i­mize the price-impact of gener­ics. The only dif­fer­ence between the Euro­pean and US firms, as far as I can see, is the ‘pri­or notice’ aspect of the FTA. But that’s a com­par­a­tive­ly triv­ial issue. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, both Labor and the Con­ser­v­a­tives seem bent on prov­ing that they hold polit­i­cal prod­uct dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion a high­er good than adopt­ing a treaty that each agrees is in the nation­al inter­est.

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