Raising concerns about the potential impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TTPA) on public health and access to medicines is essential for creating awareness among policymakers about the implications of trade policy decisions, according to a story in the Medical Journal of Australia.
The authors, Anne Marie T Thow, Deborah H Gleeson and Sharon Friel, said that the Australian Medical Association and the Public Health Association of Australia had already raised such concerns.
Now, doctors could help protect public health by highlighting the effects of proposed provisions on patients, opposing health-damaging provisions, arguing for the agreement to be worded in ways that protect public health and seeking greater transparency in the TPPA negotiations.
Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam are involved in the TPPA negotiations.
The authors said that while the Australian government had stated it would not enter into an agreement that compromised public health, independent assessment of the implications for public health was severely limited by lack of transparency in the negotiations.
It pointed out that the agreement would not be made public until after it is signed.
Nevertheless, leaked documents had shown that an investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism was being negotiated for the TPPA. This enabled foreign investors – including companies that manufactured, marketed and distributed health-damaging products – to seek compensation from governments for policies that negatively affected them. A similar mechanism in another treaty had enabled Philip Morris Asia to sue the Australian government over plain tobacco packaging.
Later, the authors mentioned the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly that was currently using an ISDS mechanism to sue the Canadian government for invalidating patents for two drugs that were allegedly found not to deliver the promised benefits.