SERI KEMBANGAN, Nov 22 — DAP announced today it will vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) in Parliament, after US President Barack Obama reportedly said the prices of medicine could rise after the free trade deal is ratified.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng pointed out that Malaysian ministers have yet to clarify the impact of the TPP on drug prices.
“If such questions can’t be answered fully, I believe that the DAP has no choice but to oppose the TPP when it’s debated in Parliament in January,” Lim said in a speech at DAP Socialist Youth’s national congress 2015 here.
“Before we get to vote, [we have to read] thousands of pages of the agreement; the US president has already said medicine prices will go up. No need to read it then. If the prices of medicine will go up, what else will go up?” the Bagan MP asked.
News portal Malaysiakini reported Obama as saying at the town hall meeting of Young South East Asean Leaders Initiative last Friday that the prices of medicine are expected to rise once the TPP is ratified.
A transcript of Obama’s quotes issued by the White House, however, showed no such comments.
Obama, in fact, said the TPP was explicit in protecting generics for low-income earners and stressed that tariffs must be eliminated for penicillin and basic drugs that have been on the market “for a very long time”.
“And over time, we actually believe that the costs of drugs are going to go down in many countries that currently have a lot of barriers in terms of those drugs,” Obama had said, though he did not touch on other drugs that have been a point of contention, like biologics, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Lim said today it was not just the elderly who would be affected by any increase in drug prices, but also younger people, including children.
The Penang chief minister pointed out that the cost of living has gone up this year due to the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the declining ringgit amid a plunge in global oil prices, and toll hikes.
“Next year, there’ll be the TPP. What will happen?” he further asked.
The opposition lawmaker also cursed the broad-based consumption tax, saying: “GST burdens the people. GST celaka”. “Celaka” is the Malay word for “damn”.
International rights groups have argued that the final text of the TPP retains provisions that will lead to a hike in drug prices.
US news site Huffington Post reported Doctors Without Borders as saying earlier this month that the treaty creates a waiting period of five to eight years before biologics — which are generic versions of medicines derived from living organisms, such as vaccines and new cancer treatments — can come to market in TPP countries.
Doctors Without Borders also reportedly said the TPP would “export” elements of American laws protecting drug companies from competition and requires member countries to provide additional patents for “new methods of using” a drug, which would prohibit competition from generics even after the original patent expires.
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said earlier this month that Malaysia will set a five-year limit on data exclusivity for biologics under the TPP, amid concerns of US pressure on prospective partners to adopt an eight-year time frame.