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Journal article

Public health over private wealth: rebalancing public and private interests in international trade and investment agreements

Export marketing Free trade Government accountability Health promotion International trade Political leadership Public health


The emerging global trade and investment regime is a site of ongoing contestation between states, powerful industry actors and civil society organisations seeking to infuence the formation of legal rules, principles, practices and institutions. The inclusion of major transnational tobacco, alcohol and ultraprocessed food companies seeking to infuence governments in these processes has resulted in the expanded distribution and consumption of unhealthy commodities across the globe, overshadowing many of the positive impacts for health hypothesised from liberalised trade. The growing number of pathways for market actors to exert undue infuence over national and international regulatory environments provided by agreements, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacifc Partnership, has given many cause to be concerned. In the context of continued commitment by states to international trade and investment negotiations, we present several avenues for public health scholars, advocates and practitioners to explore to rebalance public and private interests in these deals.

Key points:

  • Trade and investment agreements provide greater access to, and influence over, national and international regulatory policy-making forums for private economic actors. Simultaneously, economic growth and higher living standards promised as a result of these agreements have not been distributed equitably
  • Public health scholars, practitioners and advocates should explore novel opportunities to protect and promote public welfare in these agreements, such as those provided in this commentary, and build stronger coalitions with those working towards broader public interest goals to maximise benefts to human health
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