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PM urged to ensure New Zealanders’ health not signed away

Prime Minister urged to ensure New Zealanders’ health not signed away

Public Health Association media release, 4 October 2013

The Public Health Association (PHA) has written an open letter to Prime Minister John Key amid health sector fears the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) could seriously jeopardise public health in New Zealand.

The letter outlines four broad areas of concern:

1.       that intellectual property, patent law and investment clauses in the TPPA may empower international companies, such as big tobacco, to challenge laws and policies the Government has put in place to protect the health of New Zealanders

2.       that the definition of State Owned Enterprises may include our public hospitals, thus exposing them to takeover by multi-national interests

3.       that the agreement does not do enough to protect PHARMAC from predatory behaviour by pharmaceutical companies, thus threatening New Zealanders’ access to subsidised medicine

4.       that the US and other foreign interests have an unfair advantage because negotiations take place in secret and New Zealanders have no way of knowing what the Government may be signing away.  

PHA President Dr Jean Simpson said New Zealand’s public health system is the envy of many countries, and to keep it that way we must be able to make our own decisions over access to medicines and the regulation of food safety and potentially harmful products like alcohol and tobacco.

“We certainly see the value in international trade agreements, but we need to ensure that whatever we agree to doesn't risk our Government being over-ruled, doesn't put New Zealanders’ health at risk and doesn't place new burdens on our already-stretched health budget.”

The letter acknowledges assurances from Trade Minister Hon Tim Groser that provisions will be included protecting the Government’s right to regulate for public health, but Dr Simpson said such provisions and how they define things like ‘necessary to protect human life and health’ would be open to challenge.

“The TPPA will make it much easier for larger economies and multi-national corporations to bring litigation which could easily result in a ‘chilling effect’ where smaller countries like New Zealand face pressure to sacrifice healthy policy. We have a relatively small economy and it’s financially risky for us to defend policies and regulations at that high level,” Dr Simpson said

The letter urges the Government to:

1.       ensure protections for public health in all 29 chapters of the TPPA

2.       insist on total exclusion of tobacco interests from all negotiations and the exclusion of the rights of tobacco industries to protect their investments and intellectual property

3.       release the text of the TPPA for analysis by independent experts and the public.

The PHA works to provide a collective voice for the diverse public health workforce and Dr Simpson said it was the organisation’s duty to express the sector’s concerns that the TPPA may have unintended negative consequences for the health and welfare of New Zealanders.

“Our public health legislation and policy must be based on solid scientific evidence about what is best for New Zealanders’ health, and not on the commercial interests of other countries or multi-national conglomerates,” she said.

The open letter is available on the PHA website at: www.pha.org.nz/documents/PHA-letter-to-the-PM-on-TPPA-Oct-2013.pdf.   

ENDS

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