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TPP a potential threat to continued alcohol reform

TPP a potential threat to continued alcohol reform

Alcohol Healthwatch is among a group of professional health agencies and individuals calling on Trade Minister Hon Tim Groser to arrange a comprehensive health impact assessment of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. New Zealand is a signatory to the TPP and the latest round of negotiations arecurrently underway in Canberra.

Alcohol Healthwatch Director Rebecca Williams says leaked information suggests that "investor state dispute settlement" and “technical barriers to trade” clauses are part of the TPP negotiations. Such clauses could leave countries like New Zealand wide open to litigious action by giant international corporates such as the alcohol industry if health legislation was put in place that threatens their trade.

“A perfect example is how trading nations and alcohol industry interests continue to undermine Thailand’s decision to put graphic warning labels on alcohol using ‘technical barriers to trade’ clauses in existing trade agreements.”

Thailand first proposed warning labels as a way to address alcohol-related harm in 2010. Since then it has come under intense pressure to reconsider the measure from trading nations including New Zealand and Australia, along with the alcohol industry. Just this week Spirits Europe asked Thai officials to reconsider warning labels and to consult with the World Trade Organization’s Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.

Ms Williams says a country’s right to take action to address health issues must be protected now and into the future.

“Big business has no business meddling with a sovereign state’s right to legislate in the interests of the health of its people. We need to take great care that we’re not about to sign away the right to pursue our alcohol reform agenda, which includes warning labels and other harm reduction measures Big Alcohol do not like and consistently oppose.

“New Zealander’s have demonstrated their support for policies when they are aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm. We cannot afford for such policies to be vetoed directly due to trade agreements or indirectly through threats of litigation.”

She says the assurances given to date by the Government that health will be protected remain hollow, especially when there is evidence our trade officials have been party to challenging another country’s right to protect its citizens from alcohol-related harm.

“The TPP continues to be a risk factor for public health and must be put up for public scrutiny in this regard.”

ENDS

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