[Suva – February 4] A workshop highlighting the link between trade agreements and health, will take place in Nadi, Fiji from February 11-14.
The four day workshop will assist country delegates ensure that their trade agreements and policies take full account of public health concerns such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer and that their country’s health initiatives are trade-compliant.
The workshop which will be led by a number of regional and international technical experts will be attended by health, trade and civil society representatives from nine Pacific Island countries – Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu along with representatives from the region’s development partners.
Research has shown that Pacific Island Countries have some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world, with obesity rates as high as 75% and diabetes rates as high as 47% in some countries. This phenomenon has been largely attributed to changing lifestyles and increasing reliance on highly processed foods of poor nutritional value, many of which are imported, and increasingly sedentary lifestyles.
Regional and international trade agreements set the conditions for trade in goods and services between countries. Inevitably, such agreements influence countries’ ability to address non communicable diseases (NCDs) through measures that might impact international trade. While import regulations cannot be a panacea for overcoming such lifestyle diseases there are steps which can be taken in the negotiation of such agreements which mitigate some of the negative impacts on public health and are compliant with international trade law. For example, there are options for placing border controls or import taxes on unhealthy products such as fatty meats, tobacco and alcohol. In some jurisdictions such steps have helped reduce the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, while simultaneously increasing countries’ financial abilities to combat NCDs and safeguarding their access to affordable medicines.
The workshop aims to increase the understanding of the linkages between trade, trade agreements and NCDs. It also aims to support and enhance collaboration between the health and trade sectors and between government and non-governmental actors as well as to identify strategies that align trade agreements and public health policies in Pacific Island countries.
The workshop is jointly organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Centre and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with the Pacific Research Centre for the Prevention of Obesity and Non-Communicable Diseases (known as C-POND).
The workshop, which will take place at the Novotel in Nadi, will be officially opened by Fiji’s Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Anti-Corruption, Public Enterprises, Communications, Civil Aviation, Tourism, Industry and Trade, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. It will conclude on Thursday, February 13 with closing remarks from Fiji’s Minister of Health, Dr Neil Sharma.