Recent federal trade policy commitments could protect Australia’s tobacco control legislation and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations
In its Trade Policy Statement of April 2011, the Australian Government committed to “preserve the right of Australian governments to make laws in important public policy areas” and to reject provisions in trade agreements that could “limit its capacity to put health warnings or plain packaging requirements on tobacco products or its ability to continue the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme”.1 One forum in which this resolve is likely to be tested is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations. The TPPA is a proposed regional free trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, New Zealand, the United States and Vietnam — a diverse assortment of countries from several continents around the Pacific rim. The TPPA differs from existing bilateral and regional free trade agreements in its sheer size and geographic diversity. It has the potential to restrict national policy space — “the freedom, scope and mechanisms that governments have to choose, design and implement public policies to fulfil their aims”2 — on an unprecedented scale.
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