Zoltán Massay-Kosubek

Will TTIP Make Europe Sick?

Genval, 28th February 2016 – Right after the 12th Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Brussels negotiations round, it is still unclear if the deadly link between increased trade of alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food and the growing economic and societal burden of Chronic Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is recognised. While both side of the atlantic talk about ‘writing the rules of XXIst century trade policy’ and ‘setting new global standards’ they simply forget (or even worse: don’t care) about how can our life be hurt by a trade and investment policy, which is blind to public health.

Sustainalbe trade without public health aspects?

This time both the EU and US negotiators entered into negotiations about the future Sustainable Development chapter of TTIP. Those kind of chapters are aimed to mitigate the non-desired impacts of trade to make that policy sustainable, and traditionally cover social and environmental aspects only (eg. as you can see on page 371 of CETA). However, after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, where SDG 3 (‘Good health & well being’) is direclty and several other SDGs are indirectly linked to public health (e.g. SDG 1 ‘No poverty’; SDG 2 ‘Zero Hunger’; of SDG 6 ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’ just to name a few), it does simply not make sense to state that ‘Trade is not just about our economic interests, but also about values. when – at least the public EU proposal – is silent on public health.

Why does public health sustainability mean in Trade Policy?

To recognise that trade does not happen in an empty space but in a context of growing burden of NCDs, which are responsible for 2/3 of all premature deaths in both Europe and the US, and which are preventable. The main risk factors of those deadly diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases such as asthma or COPD, diabetes etc.) is consumption of tobacco, alcohol and food high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS), which are traded products. Increasing their trade has obvious unsustainability consequences, but more importantly, investment agreements seek to remove ‘non-tariff barriers’ and several government policies aiming at reducing the NCD burden (eg. Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol, plain cigarette packaging, traffic-light food label system etc.) can be easily regarded as ‘trade irritant’.

NCDS are the silent killers. – NCDs are the leading global cause of death worldwide, accounting for 60% of global deaths. NCDs are estimated to cost the world economy $47 trillion over the next 20 years, representing 75% of global GDP and surpassing the cost of the global financial crisis.

How did the chief negotiators respond to that point?

After making a stakholder presentation on coherence between Trade and Public Health for Sustainable Development, I was given the opportunity to ask the leads about if they intend to include a public health part into the Sustainable Development chapter.

Dan Mullaney (US) responded that the US recognises the Member States’ right to regulate tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food and TTIP will respect / will not prevent that.

Ignacio Garcia Bercero (EU) responded that the EU recognises the public health concerns that is why public health NGOs are in the TTIP Advisory Group. He added that the EU does not think that having a public health section in the Sustainable Development chapter is the most appropriate way to take into account the public health aspects of TTIP as the EU follows the UN guidelines in this regard which foresees social and environment aspects of sustainability. He said that health elements are present in both the social and environmental sections and the EU is open to consider where could the public health concerns best fit in TTIP.

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