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'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."


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