Wto Agreements And Public Health

The impact of the AOA on public health depends not only on a country`s prosperity and whether it is a net importer or exporter of food, but also on the importance of agricultural trade and domestic policy for certain segments of the population. Negotiators from developing countries accuse countries that tariffs on agricultural imports and production subsidies from the UNITED States, the EU and Japan are hampering trade-related growth and the fight against poverty in developing countries. Estimates of these annual losses for developing countries range from $20 billion to $60 billion.36 A July 2004 WTO Framework Agreement on the gradual introduction of subsidies could end this impasse. But the details are still being negotiated and the United States has said it will not begin negotiating such reductions until developing countries reduce their agricultural tariffs.37 The August 2004 agreement also allows the United States to maintain the domestic agricultural subsidies announced in 2002 of $180 billion until it can prove that it does not affect the current level of agricultural production. In the run-up to the end of the 10-year implementation period, Brazil successfully challenged the U.S. cotton and sugar subsidies under the AOA38; Further challenges are expected for agricultural subsidies. Intensive negotiations on agriculture at the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting resulted in agreement on a 2013 deadline for the phasing out of all export subsidies. Export subsidies for cotton in industrialized countries will be abolished in 2006. The difficult issues related to domestic aid to agriculture, including cotton and sugar, have yet to be resolved. The Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) and GATS have been the subject of intense public health debate about their effects on access to essential medicines and health care. The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Paul Hunt, cites the two agreements as a potential conflict with this right.6 Trade can also be good for health and improve people`s lives by having access to goods or technologies that treat diseases or improve well-being. Proponents of trade liberalization also argue that it can increase economic growth and wealth creation, both of which can reduce poverty4 and allow for increased investment in health care, education, environmental protection and other determinants of population health.5 Others argue that the relationship is more subtle. Development economist Ha-Joon Chang6 points out that today`s rich countries have done so through a wide variety of strategies – child industry protection, export subsidies, copying of foreign technologies and strict government controls on foreign investment – that have led to new trade liberalization rules increasingly being denied by poorer countries.

The most well-known case of SPS was an EU ban on foreign beef containing artificial growth hormones banned in Europe because they can be carcinogenic. The dispute resolution body ruled against the EC ban, in part because international standards had been established for five of the six hormones at issue44 SPS (III.1) prefers state rules to be based on international standards, including those of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex). The code is a joint FAO/WHO programme for food standards. What the body ignored was that the Code adopted a “safe” hormone consumption with a very close vote of 33 votes to 29 and 7 abstentions; and that Codex itself has been criticized for having an overwhelming majority of business scientists with very limited participation of civil society organizations. Standards and risk assessments are not just “scientific,” they are also political and controversial, especially in cases of uncertainty.