Previously known as Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics PSRGNZ - Charitable Trust
As required under the new 2005 Charities Act, PSGR has reregistered as a charitable trust.

3 October 2015

The Right Hon John Key                                                               

Private Bag 18 888

WELLINGTON 6160

cc to all MPs

 

Dear John Key

An open letter from Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility New Zealand Charitable Trust to the government of New Zealand regarding our request that New Zealand not be made a signatory to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

As a group of scientists and physicians, PSGR calls upon parliamentary MP’s to represent patient's best interests to the government.  We also call upon the government to ensure an independent assessment of the health impacts of the TPPA is undertaken and to reveal the contents of the negotiations to the public.

1 We are a voice in good company

We join our medical colleges and organizations across the world that are deeply concerned about the potential for the TPPA to vastly limit access to medications to millions, if not billions of people in the signatory countries.  We call for the government to hold an independent and public health assessment of the TPPA prior to signing this agreement. We do so together with:    

·         MSF (Medicines San Frontiers),

·         the Public Health Association of New Zealand (PHA)

·         the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO)

·         the NZ Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), and

·         a wide range of health professionals and organisations who have recently petitioned the government for an independent assessment of the health impacts of the TPPA which includes: 425 independent medical professionals writing to the Prime Minister; 60 public health academics and practitioners writing to the Minister of Health; 270 senior doctors, professors, and other health professionals writing to the Prime Minister; the New Zealand Medical Association (approximately, 5000 members), all supporting the call for an independent assessment of the TPPA’s impact on our health system.

 

2 Reason for this concern

·         Ability to regulate medication costs and access.

Agreeing to the TPPA and thus to being subject to the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) would effectively remove New Zealand's sovereign decision-making capacity.

The ISDS process, which New Zealand would be agreeing to [and bound by], has already been shown to be biased and open to corporate financial influence.  This puts at risk the sovereignty of our government to be able to regulate health programmes and services.  As a country New Zealand can be proud of the marked health dollar savings it has achieved through the agencies of Pharmac. This organization would likely go by the wayside were the TPPA to be signed, causing the New Zealand tax payer thousands of millions in added medical costs in a system that is already well documented, like many medical systems in the world, to be near breaking point, and with people already documented to be dying on waiting lists.  We cannot absorb this added cost without loss of life.

While ExportNZ has stated, Most ISDS claims that have been brought to arbitration involve rogue decisions by unpredictable governments in just a handful of countries. 

“They tend to be countries with a poor record for bribery and corruption, with tendencies towards expropriation of investors' property, regulatory flip-flops and protectionist policies.

“The vast majority of countries with good rule of law and strong institutions have no record of illegally confiscating or nationalising investors' property, and have not been subject to any claims for ISDS arbitration.”

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has issued reports on investment agreements in 2014 and 2015Up to 2013 ISDS claims had been brought against at least 98 countries (more than half the 193 countries in the United Nations).  These included claims against Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, United Kingdom, and USA – countries that are usually thought of having good rule of law. 

In this context, extremely concerning is the recent move by Turing Pharmaceuticals owner, Martin Shkreli. Upon purchasing the HIV treatment drug Daraprim, Shkreli, via Turing, immediately increased the cost of the medication from $13.50 to $750.  A 55-fold increase.  Should the TPPA go through, such immoral actions may not easily be challenged without great and wasted expense to the taxpayer.

·         Ability to regulate health determinants 

Health is not just a matter of medications.  It is built on a base of lifestyle.  Should the TPPA go through it may actually suppress both freedom of speech as well as action to address health determinants at their core source.  For example

a) Smoking is unarguably detrimental to health.  Yet the ISDS is being used to literally sue not only Uruguay but now Australia over health initiatives to adopt tobacco packaging that either highlights the risks and or reduces the advertisement and branding of smoking by applying plain packaging.

b) Poverty is again unarguably directly tied to health outcomes.  Unbelievably and immorally last year, through the ISDS, the country of Egypt was literally sued for ruling to increase its minimum wage by French multinational Veolia Group.  

Do we as a country wish to have legislation of national sovereignty taken away from us by subscribing to be under the jurisdiction of the ISDS by subscribing to the investor protection clauses which would exist as part of the TPPA were it to be signed by New Zealand?

c) Diet – there is now clear links between Glyphosate use and such diseases as cancer and ADHD, nervous system disease, kidney disease and birth defects.  The evidence for this is so strong that the agricultural chemical has been banned by the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and just recently from French gardening stores. 

Under the TPPA, any attempt by the NZ government to regulate this chemical and others shown presently or in the future to adversely affect health, will be open to legal challenge due to potential loss of income on the part of the chemical manufacturers.  This would effectively place New Zealand in an “open season” status allowing environmentally and health damaging chemicals to become partially or even completely unregulated in effect.

On the basis of these once in a century level threats to health, PSGR strongly opposes the signing of the TPPA by New Zealand and calls upon her MP’s to represent our case to her government on behalf of the people to ensure that all steps are taken to secure our sovereign ability and right to regulate in favour of health promotion.

 

 

The Trustees of Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility New Zealand Charitable Trust