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Open letter to PM: TPPA puts profits before health

NZNO sends open letter to Prime Minister: TPPA puts profits before New Zealanders’ health.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is one of a more than 260 health sector individuals and organisations to sign an open letter to the Prime Minister today, warning of the threat to New Zealanders’ health from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Leaked texts of the TPPA trade agreement contain major provisions saying that business interests can sue governments for billions of dollars if a country introduces a law and a company would lose profits. These provisions in the trade agreements say that government regulation must not get in the way of investors’ profit.

Similar provisions in a trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong are being currently used by tobacco companies to sue Australia for its laws on plain packaging of cigarette.

NZNO president, Marion Guy says, “Smoking is a huge health issue for Māori, yet we have delayed introducing plain packaging laws that we know will reduce smoking uptake, until the outcome of the law suits against Australia is known. We should not have to wait, or be put off from good health regulation because of provisions in trade agreements, especially when they are negotiated in secret.”

“The same thing could happen in any area where we might want tighter regulation to improve public health, for example around alcohol, advertising or fast food,” she says.

NZNO has already voiced strong concerns that the TPPA is likely to lead to higher costs for medicines because pharmaceutical companies will hold onto their patents for longer, preventing the release of the cheaper generic drugs. The TPPA may also interfere with the independent advisory functions of PHARMAC committees if they conflict with industry.

The open letter has been published today, funded by health professionals concerned about the need to protect New Zealanders’ health and access to medicines. Three similar letters have been sent to the Prime Minister or Minister of Health from a variety of different health-related groups over the last 18 months, with little or no response. A copy of the letter with the full list of signatures can be found here.

About the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
The TPPA is a proposed trade agreement between New Zealand, Australia, United States, Canada, Japan, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The TPPA is intended to enhance trade and investment among the TPP partner countries, promote innovation, economic growth and development, and support the creation and retention of jobs. It has been criticized globally by health professionals, internet freedom activists, environmentalists, organized labour, advocacy groups, and elected officials, in large part because of the proceedings' secrecy, the agreement's expansive scope, and controversial clauses in drafts leaked publicly.

ENDS

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