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What doctors should know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

How this new breed of trade agreement could affect public health and access to medicines

Macroeconomic policy decisions can seem far removed from day-to-day medical practice; however, these high-level policy decisions about trade and economic policy have far-reaching consequences and can undermine effective health policy and practice.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), currently under negotiation, represents a new breed of trade agreement.1 It will include the traditional focus areas, like removing import taxes and enabling foreign companies to provide services in Australia; and it is believed it will provide new protections for investors and intellectual property. The TPPA is aimed at changing policy making within countries and harmonising domestic policy requirements affecting trade and investment across the countries involved.2

As a new-style agreement, the TPPA has greater potential to affect domestic health policy and, ultimately, the quality of health services and public health.3 For example, leaked documents show that an investor–state dispute settlement mechanism is being negotiated for the TPPA. This enables foreign investors — including companies that manufacture, market and distribute health-damaging products — to directly…