An official from the US Trade Representative’s office (USTR) is currently in Wellington checking up on the country’s plans to implement the TPP.

In a statement last night, the US Embassy in Wellington said: “There is a working level USTR official currently in New Zealand to discuss the TPP implementation process.

“USTR is meeting with TPP members to discuss how to coordinate as all Parties begin preparing to implement the Agreement.

“USTR is doing so to ensure a smooth process toward entry into force of the agreement as soon as possible.”

But the official’s visit comes against the background of a growing row between New Zealand and American pharmaceutical companies on how to interpret a section of the agreement relating to data protection for biologic drugs.

Trade Minister Todd McClay told POLITIK last night that he was not proposing to amend or change the TPP legislation which would go into Parliament soon to accommodate the companies’ concerns.

Mr McClay said that under its legislation Pharmac was free to negotiate with the drug companies without any direction from Ministers.

Mr McClay came under some pressure yesterday from Labour’s deputy leader, Annette King, who referred to a report in POLITIK quoting Medicines NZ Chair Heather Roy saying drug companies could withhold drugs from New Zealand if they weren’t satisfied with the level of data protection they got.

Ms King said: “John Key must tell us whether Pharmac is on the agenda with the US delegation and there must be complete transparency over what is being discussed.

“Kiwis are already missing out on accessing the medicines they need due to Pharmac’s underfunding. Last year Pharmac received less funding for new medicines than it asked for.

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“The Government must rule out any further changes that would threaten Kiwis’ access to life-saving medicines,” Annette King says. 

Mr McClay said the agreement was not up for renegotiation.

“Very very clearly the negotiations are over and it is not up for renegotiation,” he said.

“In fact, all countries, including America, said that at the time of signing.”

Mr McClay said New Zealand conceded that some in America had a different view to New Zealand, but he believed that we could meet our obligations under TPP under existing legislation so we would not be changing any legislation around.

And he said the way Pharmac worked meant it was for them to negotiate any drug purchase agreements.

There was a separation between Pharmac and the Minister of Health.

“It is for them to work through entirely.”

New Zealand believes it has support for its position from Australia and possibly Singapore.