Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

'Our government is secretly locking New Zealand into an unhealthy deal to protect corporate profits,' says climate and health advocacy group. (Photo: Cool Revolution/flickr/cc)

Doctors Worldwide Blast TPP's 'Chilling Effect' on Health, Climate Protections

While U.S. corporations have been involved in negotiations, 'health agencies have been forced to rely on leaks,' physicians point out in letter to be published Saturday

Deirdre Fulton

An international coalition of doctors representing seven Pacific Rim countries is demanding the public release of draft trade agreements currently being negotiated in secret between world governments.

The corporate-friendly Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), along with the equally troubling Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), "threaten the ability of governments worldwide to provide affordable health care and to put in place health and environmental laws that protect public health and mitigate health inequity," reads a letter (pdf) signed by 27 health leaders, to be published Saturday in the international health journal The Lancet.  

"Although USA-based industry advisors have been granted privileged access to negotiating documents, health agencies have been forced to rely on leaks for information," the document continues, referring to WikiLeaks's efforts to shed light on the draft texts.

The signatories hail from New Zealand, Australia, the U.S., Canada, Chile, Malaysia, and Vietnam—7 of the 12 countries that would be covered by the TPP—and the list includes leaders of the World Medical Association and World Federation of Public Health Associations. The effort was led by medical providers from New Zealand and Australia, who note that TPP provisions could "push up the cost of affordable and life-saving medicines" for vulnerable populations in those countries and elsewhere.

"The negotiations are not about the way most of us think of trade—you and me buying and selling things," said New Zealand psychiatrist Erik Monasterio, a co-author and lead signatory. "Instead they are protecting the massive investments 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."

"And all the while, the text is shrouded in secrecy," he added.

Specifically, the health workers call out investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, which "allow investors to sue governments if policy changes or even court rulings substantially affect the value of their investment, yet do not allow governments to sue investors for breaching the right to health."

Such provisions, they write, could have "a chilling effect on efforts to address key health issues, such as alcohol, the obesity epidemic, and climate change."

The New Zealand Climate and Health Council released a statement (pdf) in support of the physicians' call.

"Leaked documents indicate the [TPP] will have far-reaching implications, including undermining our ability to protect our climate and the future health of New Zealanders—yet the entire agreement is still being kept secret from the public," said Rhys Jones, co-convener of the Council. "Under the [TPP], the New Zealand government could find itself hamstrung in efforts to reduce climate damaging emissions and to promote health."

Jones continued: "The irony is that this same week in Geneva talks continue toward international agreement on climate action, and 13-14 February marks Global Divestment Day as the world increasingly turns from fossil fuels towards clean renewable energy. Yet our government is secretly locking New Zealand into an unhealthy deal to protect corporate profits."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Citing 'Unprecedented Crisis,' House Dems Push Biden to Protect Haitians From Deportation

Warning of "mortal danger," one advocacy group argues extending and redesignating Temporary Protected Status for Haitians "is a matter of life and death."

Jessica Corbett ·


Pentagon Fails Another Audit, Yet Congress Poised to Approve $847 Billion Budget

"This isn't using our taxpayer dollars wisely," said the National Priorities Project. "It's robbing programs that we need, like the discontinued child tax credit that cut child poverty by half."

Kenny Stancil ·


Experts Warn 'Doomsday Scenario' for Colorado River Basin Possible in 2023

"The problem with massive projects like Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam," said one climate journalist, "is they were engineered for a climate that no longer exists."

Julia Conley ·


Starbucks Violated Law and Must Bargain With Union in Seattle: NLRB

The coffee giant, which plans to appeal, "is continuing its aggressive anti-union campaign against workers by delaying, confusing, and flat-out refusing to bargain with them," said Starbucks Workers United.

Jessica Corbett ·


Three UK Universities Ban Fossil Fuel Industry Recruiters From Campus

"It is vital that our universities show with actions, not words, that they are taking the side of climate justice, and not of the industries driving us deeper into a climate crisis," said one campaigner.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo