Doctors concerned at lack of information on TPPA

Press Release – Doctors for Healthy Trade

Doctors are calling upon the government to provide more information about the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) in response to claims by the Prime Minister that last weekends protesters were misinformed. Doctors, other health professionals, …Doctors concerned at lack of information on TPPA

Doctors are calling upon the government to provide more information about the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) in response to claims by the Prime Minister that last weekend’s protesters were “misinformed”. Doctors, other health professionals, and their families braved the weather and turned out across the country to express their deep concern at the TPPA.

“Our concern over TPPA secrecy is valid. If we are misinformed, then give us full and accurate information” said Dr Erik Monasterio, a Christchurch psychiatrist, speaking for Doctors for Healthy Trade. “Despite the protests of the Trade Minister, there is no good reason for his secrecy over the TPPA. There are very good reasons for more openness. The European equivalent of the TPPA, the Trans Atlanctic Trade and Investment Partnership (the TTIP) is widely available and debated after the European Union Ombudsman ordered the release of parts of the negotiation documents citing strong public interest and rights to know” Dr Monasterio added.

Medical concern about the TPPA is very widespread. Supporters of Doctors for Healthy Trade work in all medical specialities right across New Zealand. Invercargill to Blenheim, Wellington to Whangarei and all points between. Medical students and retired doctors; professors, researchers. Doctors working in General Practice, emergency and intensive care, anaesthetics, surgery, public health, obstetrics, paediatrics, end-of-life care, psychiatry, radiology, specialists in eyes, bones, hormones, hearts, lungs, blood, infection, joints, kidneys and cancer want clear information about the health consequences of the TPPA.

“The arguments used by the government to justify secrecy of the TPP have been inconsistent and misleading” says Consultant Clinical Microbiologist Dr Joshua Freeman. “The notion that releasing the text co-drafted by NZ’s negotiating partners would reveal to them new information about NZ’s position is ridiculous and raises obvious questions about why the government is resorting to such a silly justification. The other equally silly argument- ‘all trade agreements are negotiated this way’ – is factually incorrect. Multiple agreements have been negotiated more openly, and the TPP takes secrecy to new extremes by ensuring draft text remains secret for 4 years after signing. What possible justification can there be for this? Mainstream medical professionals in NZ echo the sentiments of the EU Ombudsman, The Australian Senate Inquiry Committee, the Australian Productivity Commission and the World Medical Association that the draft text must undergo an independent assessment of health impacts prior to signing. Failure to do this would be negligent – and if there is nothing for the New Zealand public to worry about – then release of the text would do nothing but reassure and work in the government’s favour” Dr Freeman said.

Associate Professor Philip Pattemore, also of Christchurch, agreed. “We know the risks to health of trade agreements in other countries. We have asked time and again to see an assessment of health risks in the TPPA, but the government has worked hard to keep the New Zealand public in the dark about this. The marchers did not protest because we were ignorant, but because we had heard enough to be very concerned, and not enough to be reassured.” he said.

“We realise that there may be cards in Mr. Groser’s hand that would be unwise to reveal until they are played, but the NZ public needs to see what is on the table, what is already public to the other negotiators and corporations involved, what is at stake in this agreement to gain or lose. Show us that PHARMAC’s function is protected, show us that patents and monopolies will not be extended, show us that drug, tobacco and other companies will not be able to sue us for making public health decisions based on scientific evidence – then we will be well informed”.


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