FPH is the leading professional body for over 3,300 public health specialists in the UK. It works to improve people’s health and wellbeing through its core aims of setting the standards for and quality assuring the specialist public health workforce and advocating for action on public health issues.
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(Friday 13 March 2015)
TTIP is a threat to people's health, say 71 European public health organisations
Joint FPH and EUPHA press release
People’s health in the UK and across Europe is threatened by plans to introduce measures that could lower vital health, consumer safety and environmental standards to dangerous levels, say 71 public health organisations from 41 European countries in a joint statement today (13 March).
The UK Faculty of Public Health (FPH) and the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) are calling on the EU to oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and United States.
Professor John Ashton, President of FPH, said: “We believe TTIP is a threat to the public’s health. The EU tells us that corporations won’t be able to force the UK government to change its laws. Yet, they could force the government to pay vast sums of taxpayer’s money in compensation if laws do not suit the interests of shareholders. That could mean that critical standards that protect the public’s health against unsafe consumer goods, dangerous workplaces and environmental hazards may be lowered to dangerous levels.”
FPH calls for the EU to reject TTIP and put health before in Trading Health?, its in-depth policy report on TTIP, which is launched today.
Professor Ashton continued: “TTIP could also mean that governments would be taken to an international tribunal by foreign private investors for introducing laws that could save lives, such as standard packs for tobacco, minimum unit pricing for alcohol or for consistent food labelling. Good and necessary laws like these would protect and improve people’s health and reduce pressure on our already overburdened NHS.
“TTIP would also increase competition in the NHS, fragment services and make it harder to give patients high quality, integrated care. It risks increasing the cost of vital medicines, including cancer drugs, for patients across Europe.”
Professor Martin McKee, President of EUPHA, said: “TTIP will take the power to make decisions away from democratically elected politicians and put it in the hands of a mechanism that is beyond public scrutiny and outside the UK court system. EUPHA and FPH are calling on the European Union to put health before profit and reject TTIP. We need healthy communities for economic growth.”
Notes to editors
A media briefing on TTIP follows below:
Liz Skinner, FPH’s Senior Media and PR Officer, email email@example.com, call 020 3696 1478 or call 07703 715100 for out-of-hours enquiries, or
Dineke Zeegers, Executive Director, EUPHA, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trading Health? UK Faculty of Public Health Media briefing on TTIP
What is TTIP?
TTIP is a free trade agreement under negotiation between the EU and US since 2013. Through improved market access, regulatory cooperation and enactment of rules designed to make it easier to export, import and invest, the EU envisages that TTIP will generate new economic opportunities for the creation of jobs and growth.
Headline messages: putting profit before health
• TTIP grants the “highest levels of protection” to foreign private companies, to be enforced not by domestic courts, but by institutionally biased extra judicial tribunals
• TTIP, by contrast, grants States weak protections against those companies, threatening their right to regulate for the public benefit, and having a ‘chilling’ effect on policy
• TTIP aims to “maximise liberalisation” of access to EU public procurement and services markets – presenting grave risks to the NHS and other public services
• TTIP aims to “harmonise” differences in important standards between the EU and US, e.g. on health, environmental protection and labour – risking lowering those standards
• Governments may become fearful of making good and necessary laws that would protect and improve people’s health and reduce pressure on our already overburdened NHS.
o This scenario is not hypothetical: the tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris is suing the Uruguayan government because it plans introduce health warnings on tobacco packaging
The UK Faculty of Public Health (FPH) believes that ensuring the right to the highest state of physical and mental health and wellbeing forms not only part of international law to which the UK is signatory – but is the first priority of any government towards its citizens. FPH also believes that profound inequalities in physical and mental health and wellbeing are largely the product of avoidable social disadvantage.
Little evidence has been presented for the benefits TTIP offers in addressing these most serious challenges. However, by prioritising GDP and the profit of foreign private companies and their shareholders above the right to health, TTIP threatens to entrench and exacerbate inequalities in health for generations to come and compromise efforts to address preventable non-communicable disease and climate change.
Why should we be concerned?
1. The right to regulate
The European Commission aims to secure the highest levels of legal protection and certainty for US investors. Under TTIP, investment protection standards accorded to investors would be policed through an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arbitration mechanism operating outside of domestic courts, at the level of international law, and with no effective appeal system. However, the protections afforded to investors are far stronger than the weak and ambiguous exceptions TTIP affords to States to make policy in the public interest.
2. The National Health Service and other public services
The European Commission, through TTIP, aims to guarantee foreign investors maximum access to public procurement markets at all levels (national, regional and local), granting treatment equal to that accorded to domestic suppliers. It also aims for the highest level of liberalisation captured in existing free trade agreements in regard to trade in services –covering all sectors and modes of supply, and tackling remaining market access barriers.
The UK Government has stated that it has no intention of excluding the NHS from this liberalisation, but, rather, should be included because Britain’s healthcare industry is a major exporter and would benefit from more open trade. FPH considers that any reassurances presented by the government that TTIP will not open commissioning of NHS and clinical services to further competition and private sector provision are wholly inadequate.
3. Intellectual property rights
It is proposed that TTIP will, in its broad definition of ‘investment’, accord expansive intellectual property rights (IPR) to foreign private investors. In addition, the European Commission intends to incorporate an enhanced version of an IPR agreement, the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS). This goes far beyond the original terms of that agreement to provide so called ‘TRIPS plus’ provisions.
Yet, it is these very same rights that have enabled multinational tobacco giant, Philip Morris, to file an $11bn claim against the Uruguayan Government on the grounds that it introduced health warnings on tobacco packets. Despite the strong evidence base for this measure – in particular its protection of child health – and clear international and national law allowing Uruguay to legislate – Philip Morris has complained that the warnings have destroyed the “goodwill” associated with its trademarks, devaluing its profit.
4. Regulatory standards
The majority (80%) of the claimed economic advantages from TTIP are derived from regulatory harmonisation and elimination of non-tariff barriers (NTBs). These include domestic laws, regulations and practices that have an effect on investment. However, governments often introduce such requirements in the public interest to protect human health and safety; the environment; consumers as well as animal and plant life.
The European Commission’s own impact assessment of the impact that TTIP may pose to energy, the environment and climate change outlines that “every scenario may increase waste and pose dangers for both natural resources and the preservation of biodiversity...changes in output in some sectors may...negatively affect their environmental impacts.”
TTIP could undermine crucial EU standards for environmental protection, lock in fossil fuel dependency on both sides of the Atlantic through controversial ‘fracking’ programmes and remove the Emissions Trading System, the cornerstone of the EU’s policy to combat climate change. TTIP’s programme of regulatory harmonisation – of equivalence, mutual recognition of existing standards or obligation to change standards – may also risk the political will to develop new ones.
Even if TTIP’s economic benefits were realised (anticipated to be €120bn), the yearly social costs of alcohol consumption alone, estimated at €156bn, outweigh the financially driven benefits of TTIP. FPH is concerned that, without fundamental revision, the proposed TTIP agreement presents serious risk to the right to health. We propose that the UK should:
• Reject in its entirety the negotiating mandate for TTIP and the EU-Canada free trade agreement;
• Reject in its entirety the proposed (and any alternative) investor-state dispute settlement mechanism provisions and investment protection standards from TTIP;
• Explicitly exclude the NHS from TTIP (and exclude any wider health and related services – including those at local authority and equivalent level)
• Reject in their entirety any proposed (and any alternative) intellectual property protections from TTIP;
• Reject any proposed (and any alternative) provision that liberalises the public procurement markets or those in trade in goods and services.