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NZ leads Lancet call for trade deal transparency

NZ leads Lancet call for trade deal transparency and health check

New Zealand and Australian health advocates are leading an international call for public release and wide discussion of the text of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Their call in leading international medical journal The Lancet, which will be published tomorrow, is signed by 27 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. Leaders are pressing for the TPPA to be transparent and its broad health impacts to be assessed – before it is signed.

Co-lead author and Senior Clinical Lecturer with the University of Otago (Christchurch) Dr Erik Monasterio, says the TPPA, like other ‘new generation’ trade deals, threatens governmental ability to deliver affordable health care and legislate to protect public health and reduce health inequities.

“And all the while, the text is shrouded in secrecy,” he says.

“The 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 investment profits of multinational companies that are 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.

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“It’s an unprecedented expansion of intellectual property rights that will push up the cost of affordable and lifesaving medicines, hitting hardest the already vulnerable households in New Zealand and other countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia,” says Dr Monasterio.

The deal also threatens public health by freezing government ability to pass laws for better health. Dr Monasterio says that governments could be sued for protecting health – but governments cannot sue back.

“This will stop important health initiatives on tobacco, alcohol, the obesity epidemic, climate change, antibiotic resistance, and other major future challenges,” he adds.

“We are asking for heath impact assessments, for each nation, and then their public release, so that parliaments and the public can discuss the issues– before political tradeoffs are made and the agreement is signed.”

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