New directions in trade and investment agreements for public health: the case of alcohol labelling

Andrew D. Mitchell, Paula O'Brien

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Alcohol is a widely traded global commodity that has significant impacts on the public’s health. This article investigates whether the text of new trade and investment agreements further protects or restricts states’ capacity to impose public health measures relating to alcohol. In the new round of trade and investment agreements negotiated over the past five years, no single policy direction for public health is discernible. Textual developments of new trade and investment agreements are pulling in different directions. However, this article argues that the general trend is tending towards the expansion of regulatory space for public interest measures. States are afforded greater regulatory autonomy through various mechanisms, including deference clauses, the affirmation of a state’s right to regulate, the circumscription of the rules on fair and equitable treatment and expropriation obligations, and the introduction of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade art XX-style general exceptions. At the same time, in the context of alcohol-specific changes to trade and investment agreements, WTO-plus changes have tended to reduce the policy space for
alcohol labelling. A rule about alcohol supplementary labelling presents a new obstacle to the introduction of alcohol labelling. While not insurmountable, this obstacle is a further consideration and potential constraint to be taken into account by states when considering introducing alcohol warning labels.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalMelbourne Journal of International Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

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