Protecting Noncommunicable Disease Prevention Policy in Trade and Investment Agreements
Preventing noncommunicable diseases is a global priority, for which the World Health Organization has recommended policies to reduce the consumption of tobacco products, alcohol, and unhealthy foods. However, regulation has been strongly opposed by affected industries, which have invoked the provisions of legally binding trade and investment agreements. The aim of this analysis of the legal, economic and public health literature was to present a short primer on the relationship between noncommunicable disease prevention policy and trade and investment agreements to help public health policymakers safeguard public health policies.
The analysis identified opportunities for protecting, and even promoting, public health in trade and investment agreements, including:
- ensuring exceptions for public health measures are included in agreements;
- committing to good regulatory practice that balances transparency and cooperation with the need for governments to limit the influence of vested interests;
- ensuring trade and investment agreement preambles acknowledge the importance of public health;
- excluding investor–state dispute settlement mechanisms from agreements; and
- limiting the scope and definition of key provisions on investor protection to reduce the risk of investment disputes.
This synthesis of the multidisciplinary literature also provides support for greater strategic and informed engagement between the health and trade policy sectors. In addition, ensuring a high level of health protection in trade and investment agreements requires cooperation between disciplines, engagement with experts in law, economics and public health policy, and fully transparent policy processes and governance structures.