3 March 2015

Health Impact Assessment of the Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

An HIA of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) has just been released, authored by Katie Hirono, Fiona Haigh, Deborah Gleeson, Patrick Harris and Anne Marie Thow.

From the media release:

Report finds medicine affordability, public health policies at risk in Trans Pacific Partnership
A report released today by a large team of academics and non-government health organisations reveals that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) poses risks to the health of Australians in areas such as provision of affordable medicines, tobacco and alcohol policies and nutrition labelling. Many public health organisations have been tracking the progress of the TPP negotiations over the past several years and have expressed concerns about the potential impacts and lack of transparency. 
“The TPP includes provisions that don’t just affect trade. They affect the way the Government regulates public health,” said Michael Moore, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA). “In many areas – such as nutrition labelling - it’s already a struggle to implement effective policies that promote health. If certain provisions are adopted in the TPP, this will be another hurdle for organisations seeking positive public health outcomes.”
The report also argues that: “The TPP risks increasing the cost of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which is likely to flow on to the Australian public in terms of increased co-payments (out-of-pocket expenses) for medicines”. An increase in co-payments risks declining public health and increasing hospitalisations, particularly for people who are already disadvantaged.
A team of researchers from UNSW Australia, Sydney University and La Trobe University conducted the health impact assessment based on leaked documents from the trade negotiations.
“In the absence of publicly available current drafts of the trade agreement, it is difficult to predict what the impacts of the TPP will be,” said Dr Deborah Gleeson, one of the report’s authors. “In the study, we traced the potential impacts based on proposals that have been - or are being - discussed in the negotiations. But the only way to properly assess the risks is to allow a comprehensive health impact assessment to be conducted on the final agreement before it gets signed by Cabinet.”
The report offers a set of recommendations to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to reduce the likelihood that the TPP will negatively impact health in Australia. Such recommendations include excluding an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, and including strong wording to ensure that public health takes priority where there is a conflict with trade concerns. The report also recommends that Government change its approach to conducting trade agreements, for example by publishing draft texts and negotiating positions on issues of public interest.
Trade negotiators are meeting next week in Hawaii. The Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, has said he anticipates the negotiations will wrap up within the next few months.
“It’s vitally important that health is given high priority in the final stages of the negotiations,” said Lynn Kemp, Director, Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation. “We urge the Australian Government to consider these issues seriously.”
The HIA report can be accessed here.