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TPPA a threat to one of the best health systems in the world

TPPA a threat to one of the ‘best health systems in the world’

Public Health Association media release, 12 February 2015

Public Health Association of New Zealand (PHA) CEO Warren Lindberg told the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee today that it should not ignore growing concerns over the lack of transparency of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

“Concerns about the potential impact of the TPPA, especially arising from the investor-state dispute settlement process, on the sovereignty of our government to regulate health programmes and services in the interests of our own people are becoming louder, more frequent and more urgent,” he said.

Lindberg reminded the Committee that a wide range of health professionals and organisations have recently petitioned the government about these concerns. These have included 425 independent medical professionals writing to the Prime Minister; 60 public health academics and practitioners writing to the Minister of Health; 270 senior doctors, professors, and other health professionals writing to the Prime Minister; the New Zealand Medical Association (approximately ,5000 members), supporting the call for an independent assessment of the TPPA’s impact on our health system; and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists having voted overwhelmingly in favour of independent health assessment of the TPPA prior to it being signed.

He said the letters and media statements from these New Zealand health professionals and organisations share the same objectives: to protect one of the best health systems in the world; to retain our sovereignty to regulate our economy and society in the best interests of the health of our people; and to retain control of our own institutions and services.

“We are justifiably proud of our health system and its achievements. A 2011 survey by the Commonwealth Fund ranked New Zealand in the top two among western countries for effective and coordinated health care, and with the lowest expenditure per capita.

“To have that health system threatened by joining a trade agreement that could put our government at the mercy of international trade organisations like tobacco companies, who could sue us if our laws and policies threaten their profits, would be a tragedy.”

He says anyone doubting that corporate trade could trump local sovereignty should note that US TPPA negotiators have more than 600 corporations advising them throughout the process.

“The combined financial muscle behind the US negotiators would outweigh our entire economy, and that represents a serious information and power asymmetry.”

Lindberg said the people calling for transparency and the opportunity to analyse the implications of this agreement work in fields that are complex and challenging.

“They are accustomed to balancing competing pressures between human behaviour and the environments in which we live. They have a lot to offer and offer it unreservedly to obtain an agreement that will boost our trade and promote our health. We ignore them at our peril.”

He also pointed out that these concerns are shared by colleagues in other countries and that similar approaches to governments had been made by the Public Health Association of Australia, the Medical Association of Australia and the American Public Health Association.

ENDS

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