Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Public Health Regulation: The Impact of Intersections between Trade & Investment Treaties in Asia

14 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2012 Last revised: 7 Jan 2014

Locknie Hsu

Singapore Management University - School of Law

Date Written: June 26, 2012


There has been an explosive growth of free trade agreements (FTAs) in recent years. The World Trade Report 2011 of the World Trade Organization (WTO) shows Asian members to be among the most active in signing preferential trade agreements. This unprecedented growth has attracted much academic and policy discussion on aspects such as their effects on trade liberalization, problems raised by specific trade and investment provisions, dispute settlement, and concerns over “regionalism”. Like such areas, public health regulation has been significantly affected by such treaties. FTAs, together with bilateral investment treaties (BITs), are rapidly forming a source of intersecting state obligations that have an impact on the regulation of public health and related intellectual property rights (IPRs) (such as in patents for pharmaceuticals) in Asian states. The impact is wide-ranging and profound, affecting access to medicines, rights and obligations of IPR owners and enforcers, rights of investors (such as producers of pharmaceutical and tobacco products), and the relationship between these agreements and other health-related treaties.

An examination of specific issues and claims (potential and actual) in the area of public health is needed to better appreciate the impact of such obligations. This discussion raises the following questions:

- How do intersecting aspects of FTAs and BITs affect public health regulation in Asia?
- Have the flexibilities that exist in WTO affecting health regulation been significantly reduced by recent FTAs and/or BITs signed by Asian states?
- The role of treaty exceptions in recent Asian FTAs and BITs in safeguarding regulatory discretion in public health.

This paper will examine the issues and examples of recent provisions critically from an Asian perspective, to provide a springboard for further discourse in this important area.

Keywords: FTA, BIT, public health, intellectual property, Asia, trade, investment, investment arbitration

JEL Classification: F02, F10, F20, F30, F40

Suggested Citation

Hsu, Locknie, Public Health Regulation: The Impact of Intersections between Trade & Investment Treaties in Asia (June 26, 2012). Society of International Economic Law (SIEL), 3rd Biennial Global Conference; Singapore Management University School of Law Research Paper No. 5/2013. Available at SSRN: or

Locknie Hsu (Contact Author)

Singapore Management University - School of Law ( email )

55 Armenian Street
Singapore, 179943

Paper statistics

Abstract Views