Medicare and Wheat Board bargaining power must be broken!
America has wheat, medicine in sights

AUSTRALIA'S pharmaceutical benefits scheme will be a United States target in talks aimed at drawing up a free trade agreement between the two countries.
   So will Australia's so-called single-desk, or farmer-controlled monopoly system, for selling its wheat overseas.
   A senior US trade negotiator has confirmed that he has both subjects in his sights for the tough talks that lie ahead. The assistant US trade representative for the Asia Pacific and APEC, Ralph Ives, met reporters briefly in Canberra on Monday.
   He said there were several issues the US wanted to explore with Australia in the context of a free trade agreement.
   Mr Ives admitted that US pharmaceutical companies had "flagged various issues" relating to Australia's pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
   The scheme allows Australians to buy most prescribed medicines at heavily subsidised prices.
   But it also gives the Australian Government substantial bargaining power in its dealings with American drug companies, which argue this is not consistent with free trade in their products.
   The Australian Government's proposal to increase public charges associated with the scheme has been blocked in the Senate.
   Labor has accused the Government of using the free trade talks to raise those charges by what it calls a back-door route.
   Mr Ives said US grain companies had also raised concerns about the arrangement that gave a private, farmer-controlled organisation, AWB Ltd, exclusive power to sell Australian wheat overseas.

The West Australian, "America has wheat, medicine in sights," by Alan Thornhill, Canberra, Thursday, March 20 2003, p 36
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