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Research 'shows TPPA would harm health'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A careful assessment of what could happen to the health of New Zealanders under the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is needed, say New Zealand doctors. An Australian report Negotiating Healthy Trade in Australia: Health Impact Assessment of the Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement released today examined the impact of the TPPA on four health issues - medicines, tobacco, alcohol and food. After careful consideration and analysis, the Australian research highlighted that it is likely to be significant negative health impacts in each of these four areas.

"New Zealand needs this sort of health impact assessment too. The assessment needs to be released publicly, so that parliament and the public can discuss the issues - before political trade-offs are made and the agreement is signed." said a representative of Doctors for Healthy Trade, Dr Erik Monasterio. "These negotiations are not about the way most of us think of trade - you and me buying and selling things. Instead they are protecting the massive investments profits of multinational companies that can be bigger than the whole New Zealand economy. They want to make sure that countries won't be able to pass laws or change policies, no matter how important to the local country, if that would cut profits of an overseas investor. They put the protection of corporate rights ahead of the protection of citizens." he said.

The Australian report comes on the heels of a call for openness in the TPPA in the leading international medical journal The Lancet. Health leaders in Australia, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, USA, and Vietnam, including leaders of the World Medical Association and World Federation of Public Health Associations, said that the broad health impacts of the TPPA need to be assessed and made public before countries sign any agreement.

"A difficulty for the Australian researchers was that the TPPA text is shrouded in secrecy. As there were no official publicly available drafts of the trade agreement the researchers were forced to rely on leaked texts" he says. "It’s hard to tell what the risks for health in New Zealand are - they could be worse than in Australia, or not so bad. We need governments to publicly release the full draft TPPA text, and to secure independent and comprehensive assessments of health impacts for each nation. The assessments need to evaluate direct, indirect, short- and long-term impacts of the TPPA on public health policy and regulation, publicly funded health systems, the cost of medicines, and health equity."

Erik Monasterio is a consultant in forensic psychiatry and senior clinical lecturer at the University of Otago Christchurch School of Medicine.

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