FIQ (Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec)

Why should we fight against the Trans-Pacific Partenership (TPP)


These days, we talk a lot about the budget cutbacks in the institutions and their devastating effects on the healthcare network. In this last entry before summer vacations, I will be talking to you about another issue, which on the face of it, may seem rather inconsequential to our daily concerns in health care but which could also have just as devastating effects: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Although the TPP does contain certain restrictions that protect the healthcare sector from commercial interests, the actual application of these rules remains a gray area that leaves room for interpretation, namely when it comes to defining what is or isn’t included in the definition of the “healthcare sector”. Just a glance at a few of the legal proceedings that have been undertaken due to other international commercial agreements allows you to ascertain that they greatly restrict any State’s legislative powers in matters of public health.

This is explained by the presence of certain clauses in this partnership that limit the signing States’ freedom in developing their public policies. So, if a policy is too restrictive or if public funds are to be invested in a State-provide service, this could be considered as “impeding” on free trade, therefore making the government liable to lawsuits filed by private businesses claiming they have been wronged.

We are mostly concerned with food security and tobacco control measures. For example, in Australia, the government’s decision to impose plain tobacco packaging was challenged by tobacco giant Philipp Morris. The Australian government had to spend over 50 million dollars to defend its policy. Another example is the evergreening of patents and rights over intellectual property concerning the cost of medications. The evergreening stipulated in the TPP will have the effect of increasing the cost of medication, therefore endangering the healthcare system’s funding.

Evidently, women could be especially affected by the TPP. When healthcare services decline, they are the most affected because they are at the heart of the healthcare system, both as users and workers.

Although consultations are currently under way, within which the FIQ will submit a brief, no modifications will be permitted to the agreement because it has already been signed, on February 4, 2016. This means that we must either accept or reject it in its entirety. This is why we must fight against the TPP.

I wish you a happy summer!