TPP threatened as countries try to contain drug costs

A MASSIVE 12-nation trade deal was hanging in the balance after five days of talks as trade ministers argued over the details on Monday.

Australia and the United States had not yet reached a deal over the treatment of intellectual property of some medicines in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The deal could cover 40% of the world's economy and was held up because the US allows drugs companies a 12-year exclusivity period over the information on how to produce new biologic medicines.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said on Monday it remained a "live issue", and Australia was arguing for a five-year exclusivity period, despite the US offering an eight-year compromise.

The length of the exclusivity periods could affect the cost of government-subsidised medicines in all 12 countries involved.

Despite successfully negotiating individual trade deals with China, Korea and India, Mr Robb said the biologic issue was a "red-line" one for Australia.

Similarly, Minister for International Development Steven Ciobo told reporters the government would not sacrifice "access to affordable medicines" for the TPP.

While "investor-state dispute settlement" clauses included in the deal had caused public controversy, it is understood the ISDS provisions would not stop a deal being reached.

It comes as the OECD prepares to release its final recommendations for developed countries to crack down on global tax avoidance.

Today the OECD will release recommendations to tackle "base erosion and profit shifting" by multi-national corporations, with effects expected on major technology, finance sector and mining companies.

Companies under the spotlight in Australia as a result of a Senate inquiry into the issue have included Apple, Google and GE.

The tax changes were expected to focus on new transparency measures as well as prevent the use of shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions, including Ireland and Singapore.

It follows Australia's key role at the head of the G20 last year, with the world's 20 biggest economies expected to back the OECD recommendations at its next meeting in Lima on Thursday.

Topics:  drug trade trans pacific partnership

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