The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement is a Threat to Public Health
We believe that health should prevail over international commercial agreements and that governments must not compromise public health to promote corporate profits and privileges.
Current free trade rules like those in the WTO agreements that attempted to strike a “balance” between the interests of trade and public health are flawed. New multilateral free trade and investment agreements like the TPP must not be allowed to further tilt this balance against public health.
The inclusion in international commercial agreements of intellectual property rules that promote corporate monopoly control over goods, such as medicine, that are essential to human well-being should not be continued in the TPP. Yet, as currently promoted, the TPP would further aggravate this problem by reducing the limited flexibilities available to developing countries and yet requiring them to invest in enforcing intellectual property rights of developed countries.
Multilateral investment agreements that establish vast new rights and privileges for investors and corporations and their private enforcement and that have been rejected as being inequitable and socially unjust in the past, are being resurrected in the TPP. The TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement mechanism raises corporation to equal status with nation states and provides them preferential rights relative to domestic firms residents, and public interest. This system makes governments accountable to corporations rather than corporations being held to public accountability, and results in governments trading away sovereignty indiscriminately to investors at the expense of their ability to adopt public health measures.
All TPP negotiating countries have legally binding commitments to desist from taking measures that will promote tobacco or further the interests of the tobacco industry as these will increase tobacco consumption. Allowing tobacco to be promoted in the TPP and obligations to consult actively the tobacco industry would undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Tobacco is unlike any other product and should be entirely carved out of all international commercial agreements.
Even though these negotiations are shielded by an unacceptable level of secrecy, we have learned that other chapters may also jeopardize governments’ ability to pursue innovative and high quality public health policy in various ways.
The TPP has the potential to be the ultimate threat to public health if negotiations continue on the same model. Therefore, we urge governments of TPP countries to:
· Eliminate investor-state dispute mechanisms (and the intellectual property chapter) from the proposed TPP. These are inherently defective in light of public health objectives and cannot be fixed.
· Carve tobacco out of the TPP altogether and encourage legitimate efforts towards addressing tobacco in appropriate fora, such as the World Health Organization, and ensure that any final TPP agreement that may result does not undermine these.
· Subject the draft text of the agreement to comprehensive human rights impact assessments to determine their compatibility with states’ public health obligations under domestic and international law.
We urge all governments to avoid agreeing to any international commercial agreement that is a threat to public health.
AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA
ACTION ON SMOKING OR HEALTH
SOUTHEAST ASIA TOBACCO CONTROL ALLIANCE (SEATCA)
PROF. JANE KELSEY, UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND