‘A Toxic Combination’– The health impacts of the TPPA

Newtown public meeting on the TPPA

Newtown public meeting on the TPPA

Notes of a talk given at public meetings in Newtown, Lower Hutt, Otaki and Wainuiomata organised by TPP Free Wellington and the Horowhenua TPPA Action Group, January 2016. Reprinted from Grant Brookes’ NZNO blog.

Kia ora koutou. Good evening. My name is Grant Brookes. I am a Registered Nurse, and the President of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation.

NZNO is the leading professional association and union for nurses in Aotearoa New Zealand, representing 47,000 nurses, midwives, students, kaimahi hauora and other health workers. NZNO embraces Te Tiriti o Waitangi and works to improve the health status of all peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand through participation in health and social policy development.

I was invited along tonight to give an expert opinion on the health impact of the TPPA. But I need to stress that my areas of expertise – in nursing, and health policy – are not sufficient, in themselves, to provide this. Having read the 599 pages which comprise the core of the agreement (excluding side instruments and some of the annexes), it is abundantly clear that legal expertise in the interpretation of international treaties is also required.

A full, peer-reviewed analysis of the health impact of the TPPA by suitably qualified experts is yet to be published for the New Zealand setting. But with these large caveats in mind, I will offer a few thoughts on the topic.

Let’s recap. Over the course of seven years of negotiations, attention on the health impacts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in New Zealand focused heavily on a few aspects of healthcare provision – specifically the cost of medicines – and on a handful of regulatory issues in public health – especially tobacco control.

The potential health impacts of the TPPA are not limited to these matters. But I will talk about them, before touching briefly on some of the more far-reaching implications for health in the agreement. The complexity of the document is such that understanding the issues requires in-depth examination. So I hope you will bear with me as I go into some detail. [Read more…]