The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement poses “the ultimate health threat”, say public health advocates
Melbourne, 9 March 2012: International health advocates are expressing concern over the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement which concluded its latest round of talks in Melbourne this week, saying the TPP has the potential to be “the ultimate health threat”.
Public health groups from nine participating countries (Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, US, Vietnam) slammed the “unaccepted level of secrecy” surrounding the negotiated text for the Agreement, even as they noted how, based on the leaked text, the TPP could jeopardize governments’ ability to pursue innovative and high quality public health policies.
In a statement, the groups called for the removal of provisions that limit intellectual property protection flexibilities available to developing countries. They also asked for the elimination of investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms which make governments accountable to corporations rather than corporations being held to public accountability. This limits the ability of states to adopt public health measures. They also called for the carving out of tobacco from the TPP because it is unlike any product and the trade pact could undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).
Studies have demonstrated how trade liberalization had increased consumption of tobacco products by up to 10 percent in developing countries. The ASEAN countries negotiating in the TPP (Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam) have the right and duty to carve out tobacco from the TPP to ensure that they are not committing to obligations that will be incompatible with their obligations as parties to the WHO-FCTC. Legitimate efforts toward addressing tobacco should be done in the appropriate fora such as the WHO,” said Mary Assunta, Senior Policy Advisor of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), a regional tobacco control non-government organization.
The group also affirmed that the text of the TPP should be subject to comprehensive human rights impact assessment to determine its’ compatibility with the states’ public health obligations under domestic and international law. They further cautioned all governments to avoid agreeing to any international commercial agreement that is a threat to public health.
Supporting the signing of this statement are various public health advocacy organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Public Citizen, Professor Jane Kelsey of TPP Watch, Action on Smoking or Health and SEATCA.
The Melbourne Round of the TPP is the eleventh round which began in March 2010. Consensus on the so-called “21st Century” agreement is expected to be reached by middle of this year when the APEC Trade Ministers meet in Russia.(ENDS).