6 March 2014, Parliament
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an ambitious free trade agreement (FTA) involving 12 Asia-Pacific countries, including the US and Japan. Its scope goes beyond removing tariffs, to tackling broader environmental, labour and intellectual property (IP) rights issues.
The IP rights chapter in the TPP has raised much concern among the negotiating countries. The US’ proposals reportedly seek a much more stringent level of IP protection than WTO (World Trade Organisation) standards, or even the US-Singapore FTA. They are said to strongly favour American industries and big corporations.
There are worries that the TPP may extend the scope of pharmaceutical patents and delay the sale of generic drugs. These could raise prices of pharmaceuticals in TPP member countries, including Singapore.
Can I ask the Minister:
1. Will the TPP directly or indirectly cause an increase in the price of medical drugs in Singapore?
2. Will our patients have to wait longer to obtain affordable, life-saving generic medicines?
3. And what are the concrete steps our negotiators are taking to protect our national interests in this area?
As a major trading nation, it is important for Singapore to be part of the TPP. However, I hope the Minister can assure us that the strategic and macroeconomic benefits of the TPP to businesses will not come at the expense of ordinary Singaporeans.