Over 150 senior Australian academics and others with expertise in public health and medicine have called on Trade Minister Andrew Robb to remain firm in his resolve to protect health and the environment in negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.
The letter was initiated by the Public Health Association of Australia following concerns that some of the gains made by the Minister could be traded for sugar or some other commodity.
“We congratulate the minister and the government on its strong stance to date in rejecting proposed provisions that would adversely affect our health system, undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, or increase the cost of medicines,” says President of PHAA, Professor Heather Yeatman.
“However, we still remain concerned about some last-minute trade-off. Health ought to be the priority.”
The signatories include over 60 Professors of health and medicine.
One of the signatories, Professor Sharon Friel of the Australian National University explained why she became a signatory: “I signed because of my concern for ensuring a fair go for health in Australia and internationally. Also because I think governments should be able to decide their domestic health policy and not be told what to do by private interests.”
CEO of the PHAA, Michael Moore says,“We know from experience with tobacco companies that some of the clauses provide opportunities for multi-nationals to bully federal, state, territory and local governments to weaken health policies.
Adjunct Professor Moore pointed out that the letter urged the Government to continue to reject the Investor State Dispute Mechanism.
“We believe the safeguards are insufficient to prevent corporations from using ISDS to challenge legitimate health and environmental measures,” he says.
“The only way to guarantee that our health and environmental policies will not be the subject of ISDS claims is to continue to reject ISDS.”
The letter concluded by respecting government commitment to protecting health in the TPPA and “as an issue of fairness for our Asia and Pacific Rim neighbours” called on Minister Robb to “to stand with developing countries to reject any proposals that would also compromise their public health and access to medicines”.