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Open Letter to Tim Groser on Alcohol and TPPA

Alcohol Action NZ
C/- The John Dobson Memorial Foundation
PO Box 443, Christchurch 8140
www.alcoholaction.co.nz

2 November 2011

Hon Tim Groser
Minister of Trade
Parliament Buildings
Wellington 6160

Dear Minister

Re: Alcohol and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)

Thank you for your reply to our letter seeking reassurance the government will not trade away New Zealand’s ability to limit the commercialisation of alcohol as part of the TPPA.

We were reassured to read:
“In all our existing international trade agreements, however, the New Zealand Government has included provisions that ensure it retains the ability to regulate for reasons related to health, safety and the environment. Amongst other things, this means that we preserve our right to regulate alcohol business activity consistent with our public health outcomes.”

But then you wrote:
“The Alcohol Reform Bill, is evidence that, although we have signed up to a number of international trade agreements New Zealand is still able to regulate the sale and supply of alcohol”.

This is concerning, because the Alcohol Reform Bill is an Alcohol NON-Reform Bill. The Alcohol Reform Bill doesn’t contain any changes that will have a major effect on New Zealand’s heavy drinking culture, and yet you are using this as an example of appropriate regulation. This leads us to wonder if the upcoming TPPA might only allow regulation that is consistent with a status quo, free market approach to the supply, marketing and sale of this inherently risky, yet fantastic business product (alcohol). If reforms were proposed that were based on the international evidence about effectively reducing harm from alcohol, these would necessarily constrain alcohol business activity. In this scenario, would the current wording of the TPPA be interpreted differently and restrict New Zealand’s ability to “regulate the sale and supply of alcohol”?

Our concern is reinforced by your ending comment:
“Our goal in TPP is not to undermine the ability of future New Zealand governments to regulate, but rather to negotiate an Asia-Pacific regional free trade agreement that contributes to stronger economic performance so that we can generate more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders.”

This sounds too much like economic growth (GDP growth) at all costs, a heavy damaging drinking culture included. We would be grateful for your reply to these remaining concerns.

Yours faithfully

Prof Doug Sellman
Director, National Addiction Centre
University of Otago, Christchurch

Prof Jennie Connor
Head, Dept of Preventive & Social Medicine
University of Otago, Dunedin

ENDS

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