Implications of the World Trade Organization in Combating Non-Communicable Diseases
University of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 485
14 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2010 Last revised: 30 Jan 2015
Date Written: May 1, 2010
The World Health Organization (WHO) has proposed a number of strategies to combat non-communicable diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes, by targeting the risk factors of tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, and poor diet. A number of the domestic regulatory responses contemplated by the WHO and individual countries have the potential to restrict or distort trade, raising the question whether they are consistent with the obligations imposed on Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In this article, we demonstrate that WTO rules do limit Members’ flexibility in implementing public health measures to address these diseases. However, the focus of WTO provisions on preventing discrimination against or between imports and the exceptions incorporated in various WTO agreements leave sufficient scope for Members to design carefully directed measures to achieve genuine public health goals while minimising negative effects on international trade.
Keywords: WTO, WHO, Trade, Non-Communicable Diseases, Cancer, Tobacco, Alcohol, Diet
JEL Classification: F10, I18, K20, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation