Trade agreements are being used to “handcuff governments” over health policy, Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organisation said at its assembly. This was “disturbing” she went on, adding that trade agreements have many consequences for health.
A nation’s health can be benefited by such deals, whether by increasing exports to foreign markets, bringing in foreign investment, or reducing the price of imported goods. But for all this potential good, they can also do just as much harm if their impact on health isn’t considered when they are being designed and negotiated. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), currently under negotiation, is one such agreement that has caused big debate over proposals that included patenting medical procedures.