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Radical new framework for trade and investment treaties

Radical new framework for trade and investment treaties

A team from the University of Otago, Wellington has just published a radical new framework for designing international trade and investment treaties. This framework is intended to assist policymakers worldwide in designing new treaties, and to help ensure that health, social and environmental objectives are included.

The framework would address public and health concerns arising from treaties such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and could be particularly useful in New Zealand’s negotiations such as on the proposed new agreement with the European Union.

The article was published in the international peer-reviewed journal BMC Public Health.

Lead author Louise Delany says it is essential that health, social and environmental objectives are recognised in such treaties as legitimate in their own right.

“Current international law puts health at the edge of the focus of nearly all treaties. In practice, health objectives have been treated as subordinate to the rights of investors and claims of economic imperatives,” she says.

The proposed framework would require changes to dispute-resolution processes, both state-to-state and investor-state.

“Trade and investment treaties should explicitly acknowledge that international law on health, environmental protection, and human rights may have priority over business interests. Treaty negotiation processes everywhere need to be much more transparent and democratic, as is required by the European Union and other nations.”

“Currently, corporations are privileged during negotiations. For example, they have access to draft texts, and disproportionate power in treaty implementation. Generally, treaties give enforceable rights to corporations, without requiring enforceable obligations from them.”

“In particular, there needs to be limitations on investor privileges, such as those relating to intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies,” says Ms Delany.

Full paper: Delany L, Signal L, Thomson G. International trade and investment law: a new framework for public health and the common good. BMC Public Health 2018 May.

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