December 19, 2016
Genval, 18th December 2016 – According to the tiny human health case studies of an independent impact assessment, TTIP will not harm our health at all. I am wondering: how can an independent assessment come to that conclusion? According to the authors of the study, its impact on the trade of unhealthy commodities (alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy food), medicine prices, healthcare systems or public health policy making will not harm our health. But are those claims substantiated?
Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
The ECORYS consultancy has finished its draft final sustainability impact assessment of the TTIP agreement. This draft includes a new chapter which contains the overall conclusions and recommendations of the report. It also contains the sector specific impact analyses, conclusions, and recommendations.
It contains 2 health specific case studies:
The draft Final Report can accessed via the project website.
What are the main aspects of TTIP which will make it unsustainable from a public health perspective? Let’s pick just a few examples from a bird eyes perspective.
– It will reduce tariffs on unhealthy commodities (tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food high in salt, fat and sugar) making them more cheaper and accessible for consumers. That could contribute to the growing Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) epidemic, linked to their consumption.
– It has the potential to undermine public health policy making via influencing the policy space for regulations, mainly via regulatory cooperation, good regulatory practices and Investment Court System (ICS).
– It can limit the decisions of sovereign states how to organise their services for general interests relevant for health (education, healthcare, social services, water and sanitaiton)
– It does not reflect upon how regulatory cooperation will influence medicine prices ( which are very high on both sides of the atlantic). It has the potential to cement the old research and development model which fails in many ways to provide patients with cheaper access to medicines. And there are specific aspects of TTIP (pricing and reimbursement of medicines, trade secrets protection) the study did not assess.
– Although the legally binding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have a health dimensaion (e.g. goal 3) there is no set of public health relevant global instruments in the study: the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), or the global action plan on alcohol and food are missing.
Those are some indicators showing that there is a problem here and a sustainable impact assessment of a major Trade deal should reflect upon that.
On 15th December 2016, I participated in the final open dialogue meeting with the authors and the Commission. Why was it frustrating? I have been following the process since the beginning. I met with the authors in the frame of interviews, I attended closed workshops where the preliminary drafts were dicsussed. I provided all occasions oral feedback which were followed up by several written contributions. And the results? Although two out of the three social case studies were dedicated to health, the authors reflected upon many thoughts and concerns, and they dedicated around 10 pages instead of 3-4 to each study but ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’. The basic conclusions – and therefore recommendations to the Commission – remained the same: “tariff reductions can be mitigated by state policy actions and by taxes, the new ICS system ensures the right to regulate, the healthcare systems will not be affected by TTIP, TTIP will not change medicine prices and regulatory cooperation will not affect public decision making.” Everything seems to be perfect.
I am wondering: can an indpendent sustainable impact assessment come to different conclusions with regard to any trade and investment agreement, when all aspects of the procedure are closely monitored by the Commission – who is funding the study at the end?
Have your say! The authors are open to any comments by 21st December 2016 for sure: for any comments, questions or suggestions regarding the Trade SIA Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, you can contact them at the following email address: