Trading up for health: How to prevent trade deals from undermining health
Trade agreements have a profound impact on health. Important public policy areas such as health services, patents for medicines and even medical qualifications are increasingly being marketised and brought into the trade agenda. Provisions in trade deals such as those on intellectual property, public service provision, investment, border taxation and regulations and standards have both direct and indirect implications for health outcomes. These provisions can make it harder for people to access medicines and good-quality health services, and for governments to regulate to improve health outcomes or raise revenues to fund health programmes.
Creating a healthy society and realising ‘Health for All’ including the UN target on Universal Health Coverage requires trade agreements that work to promote and protect public health. Ensuring that trade policy supports access to affordable healthcare and medicines is an essential part of this. However we also need trade deals that underpin good quality, universal, public healthcare, and facilitate a healthy society by providing a healthy and safe environment, control of money and resources and access to nutritious food, jobs, and clean water for all.
As the UK seeks to develop its own trade policy for the first time in a generation, it is important that realising the right to health is a central consideration and that the appropriate steps are taken to ensure that trade protects, rather than undermines, our health and the health of people around the world with whom we trade.
This briefing outlines the main risks that trade policy poses to health, and then sets out the alternatives that could help avoid these risks and ensure that trade doesn’t undermine health justice. It makes seven recommendations for future UK agreements.