The alcohol industry, their lobby groups, and government representatives from alcohol producing high-income countries are actively working to influence trade agreement negotiations for industry economic gain. They also use the World Trade Organization to pressure developing countries to neglect public health oriented alcohol policy development, arguing for rules which benefit transnational alcohol corporations, located in Western countries but which jeopardize health and sustainable development.
Civil society, community groups, and academia therefore need to pay greater attention to trade and investment agreements and WTO processes to develop counter frames to protect governments’ space to develop coherent health policies.

No Ordinary Commodity:

Trade, Big Alcohol and Alcohol Harm

There is a long history of trade agreements and trade policy ignoring the harm that could be caused to public health. These trade and investment agreements and policies have widespread effects on the health and well-being of people and communities. When the alcohol trade is not looked at from a public health perspective, trade policies can erode, derail or block public health alcohol policy measures.

Big Alcohol’s capture of trade policy is a threat to health and development in developing countries

The alcohol industry is continuously expanding to newer markets especially in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) through various mergers and acquisitions. Thus, resulting in powerful multinational Big Alcohol players. In LMICs, these Big Alcohol players wield even more influence over trade policies than in high-income countries.

Big Alcohol seeks to increase profits through trade policy. As a profit-seeking industry, it does not prioritize the public health effect of its products but wields its influence on trade policies to maximize profits. Any global action to prevent and reduce alcohol harm is swiftly undermined by the organized global alcohol industry, as it can threaten their profits, with the trade policy arena being a parallel space shaping alcohol policy, just without any public health considerations.

But alcohol products are no ordinary commodity. The alcohol industry has wide-ranging negative effects on the health, social and economic development of countries, specifically in LMICs. Governments and global public health agencies must ensure the prevention of alcohol problems or at the very least stop worsening alcohol problems through trade policy solely in the interest of Big Alcohol.

Case studies: exposing TTIP, CETA, and the TPPA

  1. The alcohol industry uses TTIP negotiations to undermine progressive and evidence-based alcohol policies in both the United States and the European Union and to protect their profits in the years to come.
  2. A comprehensive analysis by civil society and community groups exposes the toll CETA would take on public health.
  3. 10 opinion pieces covering controversial topics, uncovering shocking truths and exploring crucial topics that concern how political institutions function, how multinational corporations undermine democracy and how trade is abused to pursue profits.

Groundbreaking scientific analysis about alcohol industry, trade, and health harms

Free trade agreements (FTAs) have the declared aim of seeking to increase global trade and promote economic growth. Historically, economic growth has led to improved population health. But increasingly Big Alcohol uses trade policy to make their products more available and to block, undermine, or derail alcohol policy development to prevent and reduce harms from the products and practices of the alcohol industry.

The alcohol industry and associated business and government organizations are actively working to influence trade agreement negotiations for industry economic gain, arguing for rules which may undermine public health goals. Scientific analysis suggests that public health experts should pay attention to trade and investment agreements and develop counter frames to ensure agreements do not create barriers for coherent health policies.

Trade agreements pose some significant health risks. But including health protections in trade and investment treaties may mitigate these impacts.