Health professionals say a comprehensive health impact
assessment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement must be
carried out to protect the health of New Zealanders. They say
leaked information suggests international big business, such as the
tobacco or alcohol industries, could sue the New Zealand government
if it puts health-based policies in place that might threaten their
Clauses designed to protect the intellectual property rights of
the pharmaceutical industry would make medicines more expensive in
New Zealand by preventing PHARMAC from purchasing cheaper generic
Members of ten health organisations are calling on Trade
Minister, Hon. Tim Groser, to bring in health experts to give the
proposed TPP an independent and comprehensive health check-up.
In an article inNZ Doctorpublished online today they say the
results should be publicly released for full discussion, well
before New Zealand commits to the trade deal.
"The negotiations are all being carried out in secret, and the
little that has leaked out is very worrying," says Dr Joshua
Freeman, a spokesperson for the health organisations.
"New Zealand should have the sovereign right to make laws and
policies for the wellbeing of its people without interference.
Under the TPP it appears that New Zealand could find itself in the
international trade tribunal if it brings in new policy around, for
example, tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy food, or environmental
The TPP is a trade agreement in negotiation between New Zealand,
the USA, and 10 other Pacific Rim countries. Ministers have given
assurances that New Zealanders' health interests will be protected,
but the health professionals believe these promises are
"We wouldn't just trust that a new medicine or procedure is
safe, simply because someone makes general reassurances," says Dr
"There needs to be published research, peer review and expert
scrutiny before we expose our patients and communities to something
new. Anything else would be medical negligence. We expect the same
standards of evidence and due diligence for the TPP.
"The TPP poses a greater threat than a new drug or medical
procedure and we want to be able to assess and debate the health
risks before we commit to such a deal."
The health professionals argue the risks are not just
theoretical. Overseas pharmaceutical companies, tobacco companies,
mining companies and the oil industry are all using trade
agreements to protect their investments - regardless of the
pollution or damage to people's health caused by their activities
or products. The World Health Organization, Médecins Sans
Frontières and United Nations experts have all warned of these
dangers (see below).
"We need a full health impact assessment, and its results have
to be open to public scrutiny before deciding that this trade deal
is safe and healthy for New Zealanders," Dr Freeman says.
Dr Rhys Jones, Co-convenor, OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health
Dr Alexandra Macmillan, Co-convenor, OraTaiao: The NZ Climate
and Health Council
Susanne Trim, Professional Services Manager, NZ Nurses
Rebecca Williams, Director, Alcohol Healthwatch
Prof Doug Sellman, Alcohol Action NZ Incorporated
Marise Stuart, President, NZ Medical Students Association