Congress could be asked to Fast-Track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) any week now, and doctors want the draft trade agreement made public.
The agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries affects more than 700 million people.
While industry advisors have access to negotiating documents, health practitioners must rely on leaks for information, doctors say in a letter published in the international medical journal, The Lancet. The only information the health community has been able to see comes from WikiLeaks.
The secretive trade deal "threatens the ability of governments worldwide to provide affordable health care and to put in place health and environmental laws that protect public health and mitigate health inequity," doctors say.
Hailing from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Malaysia and Vietnam, signatories include leaders of the World Medical Association and World Federation of Public Health Associations.
"The negotiations are not about the way most of us think of trade – you and me buying and selling things. Instead they are protecting the massive investments profits of multinational companies that are bigger than the whole New Zealand economy. They want to make sure that countries won’t be able to pass laws or change policies, no matter how important to the local country, if that would cut profits of an overseas investor," explains Dr. Erik Monasterio, who is based on New Zealand.
"It’s an unprecedented expansion of intellectual property rights [for big pharma] that will push up the cost of affordable and life-saving medicines … and the deal threatens public health by freezing government ability to pass laws for better health," he continues.
Governments could be sued for protecting health, but governments cannot sue back! "This will stop important health initiatives on tobacco, alcohol, the obesity epidemic, climate change, antibiotic resistance, and other major future challenges."
"We call on our governments to publicly release the full draft TPP text, and to secure independent and comprehensive assessments of the health and human rights consequences of the proposed agreement for each nation. The assessments should evaluate the direct and indirect-and short-term and long-term-effects of the TPP on public health policy and regulation, publicly funded health systems, the cost of medicines, and health equity; they should also be openly released to allow full public and legislative discussion before any political trade-offs are made and the agreement is signed," says the letter.
Doctors expressed similar concerns about the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and EU.
Learn more about TPP: www.stopfasttrack.com
You can read the leaked Environment Chapter of TPP at Wikileaks: