Feature Briefing

New Pacific trade deal—good for pharma, bad for public health?

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3649 (Published 08 July 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h3649
  1. Jonathan Gornall, freelance journalist, Suffolk, UK
  1. jgornall{at}mac.com

Jonathan Gornall explains the debate about the Trans-Pacific Partnership

In his last term in office the US president, Barack Obama, is hoping that the vast trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will be “the most positive trade deal in history.” But opponents say the deal, being negotiated behind closed doors and to be signed by the end of the year, will be a shameful sell out that favours corporations over individuals and poses a grave threat to public health.

What is the TPP?

Five years in the making, the TPP will bring together in a single trading block 12 nations that border the Pacific and which together account for almost 40% of global gross domestic product (GDP): Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, US, and Vietnam.1

The US government says the economic advantages are clear. Not only will the TPP boost US industries and jobs by wiping out the taxes imposed on American exports—one economic analysis says the TPP could be worth $78bn (£50bn; €70bn) a year for the US2—it will also serve America’s wider geopolitical agenda in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We have to make sure America writes the rules of the global economy,” Obama said in a speech in May. “Because if we don’t . . . China will.”3

Obama means well—he sees the TPP as an exercise in philanthropy as much as in job creation. The deal, says the White House, “reflects more than our interests . . . it reflects our values” and will impose “stronger, fully enforceable labor and environmental standards” on America’s trade partners. The White House says the deal puts in place, for the first time, labor standards, including a minimum wage, a ban on child labor, and the right to form …

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