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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26317

Senator HARRIS (12:41 PM) —I rise to place on the record that One Nation will support Labor's amendments to the FTA. But we would like to spell out very clearly that the reason we are supporting the amendments is that they in some way ameliorate the undesirable sections of the free trade agreement, particularly in relation to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme should not be part of the free trade agreement. In commencing my contribution I would like to quote from a document from the Executive Office of the President of the United States of America. It is headed `US-Australia Free Trade Agreement—Questions and Answers About Pharmaceuticals'. These are questions and answers that were given, I understand, in Congress in the United States. I will be quoting verbatim from the document, because the document raises so many issues that have been raised as concerns by Australians. This document actually gives the United States interpretation of what gains or what commitments the United States has made with regard to pharmaceuticals in the free trade agreement. All of these comments are questions and answers from the American perspective. The first question is:

What guidance has Congress given about pharmaceutical trade issues?

The answer is:

For decades, Congress set trade negotiating objectives that called for increased foreign market access for U.S. innovative medicines through tariff cuts and strong protections for U.S. intellectual property. In the Trade Act of 2002, Congress provided additional guidance with negotiating objectives that call for increased transparency in the pharmaceutical regulatory process, consultative mechanisms, and addressing non-tariff market access issues such as reference pricing.

They go on to say:

How has the U.S. been dealing with international pharmaceuticals issues in trade agreements?

This is quite a profound statement:

In earlier trade agreements, the USTR worked to achieve congressional negotiated objectives with provisions that eliminated or reduced duties on U.S. pharmaceutical products, and with strong IPR provisions protecting patents for pharmaceuticals and other innovative U.S. products.

Progress reported.