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Breakthrough in Trans Pacific trade talks

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October 5
10:02 PM 2015

After five years of negotiations, 12 Pacific nations are about to conclude on a free trade agreement (FTA) as these countries have arrived on an understanding on Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deciding monopoly on new biotech drugs.

Reaching an understanding on how long a monopoly of pharmaceutical companies should continue on a particular biotech drug is considered to be a major breakthrough as it had been a bottleneck to concluding the pact for over the years.

The US was insisting on longer monopoly on healthcare drugs, while Australia and other five nations were against it saying such monopoly will impact the national healthcare budgets.

US President Barack Obama stressed the need for the deal to open markets to US exports.

12 countries led by the US and Japan have been engaged in formulating a pact on Trans Pacific Partnership. This is aimed at lowering tariff and establishing global standards for 12 countries, which contribute 40 percent to the world's gross domestic product (GDP).

After five years of prolonged negotiations, these Pacific nations almost reached a consensus in a latest meeting held in Atlanta.

However, it's not totally 100 percent as 80-90 percent chances for finalizing the deal, as sources familiar with the development, revealed. 

It's learnt that a final conclusion on monopoly over new healthcare drug upto five years with an option of extra buffer time has been finalized.

Australia is happy over this development. However, still few countries have to approve it officially. The decisions of Chile and Peru are still not clear on this healthcare patent monopoly issue.

The New Zealand's demand for access to dairy markets has delayed concluding of agreement in the last minute. New Zealand was insisting on dairy market access as an official said "the thing that's missing is an agreement on dairy market access."

The latest round of discussions has finalized a two-way approach in healthcare drug monopoly issue. While adopting Australia's demand for five years of protection, there would be flexibility on longer period of drug monopoly as per the individual case to case basis. There would be two-track system in drug pricing mechanism.

The pricing mechanism on next generation drugs has a cascading effect on several efforts to bring the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to conclude.

The fifth day of meeting on Sunday continued for 24 hours. The US and Australia discussed throughout the night to formulate an agreement on cell-based medicines.

US wants 8-year patent-style protection for biologics, while Australia and other nations preferred patient and taxpayer-friendly five year model.

The meeting went unconcluded on how much foreign butter, condensed milk and other dairy products should be allowed into Canada and other countries. New Zealand wants to sell more butter in North America.

The US and Japan have already reached in principle on trade in automobile and auto parts. Canada and Mexico were also parts of the discussions. This pact will give 20 years of tariff protection to the US automobile majors like General Motors (GM) and Ford.

This will protect the US automobile companies from the low cost pickup truck imports from Thailand or other Asian nations.

Led by its Trade Minister Andrew Robb, Australia has defended that longer period of protection would strain national healthcare budgets and keep life-saving medicines from patients who can't afford them.

Australia has been supporting five years of protection so that drug prices will come down after a short period of time. The US offers 12 years of protection on clinical data related to the important drugs such as Avastin for cancer treatment.

Genentech, a part of Roche, has developed Avastin. The US officials insisted on the deal as a counterweight to China.

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