John Libbey Eurotext

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On the necessity of requiring international free trade agreements to provide stronger protection of human health and the environment Volume 15, issue 3, May-June 2016

Author
Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7/SFSE
Bâtiment Buffon - Case courrier 7073
4, rue Marie Andrée Lagroua Weill Hallé
75205 Paris cedex 13
France
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  • Key words: expertise, free-trade agreements, health safety, precaution principle, primary prevention, public health, regulation, world trade
  • DOI : 10.1684/ers.2016.0864
  • Page(s) : 238-47
  • Published in: 2016

World trade of goods and services affects the daily life of citizens in all its dimensions and, in particular, their food, their general and occupational environments, and more globally their health.

International trade regulation, in its present form, excludes any consideration of health, social and sustainable development issues. It is not under the auspices of the United Nations, which is built on a democratic and universal basis. National regulations governing protection of work, public health, and the environment are seen mostly as an obstacle to the free circulation of goods and services and as barriers to investment. Large multinational corporations are entitled to participate directly in negotiations between states. Many bilateral and multilateral agreements of major importance have already been concluded or are still being negotiated. One example is the Great Transatlantic Market between the European Union and the United States of America (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), previously Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA)). This free trade agreement is raising concerns among social and political partners, which may differ from one country to another. Its major topics are the elimination of borders in government procurement contracts, the settlement of disputes between investors and nation-states by an international private court, and ongoing regulatory cooperation.

Regulations on food, environmental health, occupational health, and chemicals encourage the community of practitioners and researchers in public health and health security from both parties to participate in the future consultative bodies. Their practical experience in primary prevention actions, rational use of scientific risk assessment and judicious application of the precautionary principle would be objectively useful in economic decision-making, as it would help to emphasize its social implications. It is therefore the community's duty to try to intervene in the drafting the agreement as early as possible, on both sides of the Atlantic, by influencing and putting pressure on political decision makers on an equal footing with the economic and financial interest groups.