Institute for Policy Research

Trade and Investment Agreements and Public Policy: Challenges to Contemporary Health, Environmental and Social Policy-Making

Thu Feb 04 10:24:00 GMT 2016

Time: 12.45 – 16.45

Venue: Chancellor’s Building 4.10

Speakers: Young Jun Choi (IPR Visiting Fellow & Yonsei University, South Korea); Benjamin Hawkins (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine), and Chris Holden (University of York); Meri Koivusalo (National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland)

Audience: Free and open to all, but pre-registration is required


This symposium focuses on one of the most pressing issues in the social sciences today: the potential impact of trade and investment agreements on contemporary public policy-making. Over the last twenty years, free trade agreements have steadily evolved to provide a higher level of protection to foreign corporations and their investments. More recently, in the context of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), efforts have been made to extend their scope further by establishing rules for regulatory formation and review aimed at harmonising policy-making institutions and outcomes.

These developments have provoked increasing concerns that contemporary trade and investment agreements undermine states’ autonomy in developing health, environmental, and social policies. The symposium aims to outline and evaluate these concerns with special attention to health policy. Specifically it will look at key actors driving agreement negotiations, the role of Investor-State Settlement Dispute (ISDS), distributional effects of agreements, and the interaction between domestic policy reforms and international agreements.


  • 12.45-13.30 Lunch
  • 13.30-13.40 Opening Remarks: Professor Nick Pearce, Director of the IPR
  • 13.40-14.40 Opening Presentations
  • 14.40-15.00 Break
  • 15.00-16.30 Panel Discussion
  • 16.30-16.45 Close

Opening presentations

  1. Neoliberal march towards Rubicon river: Potential effect of Investor-State Settlement Dispute on social policy (Young Jun Choi)
  2. Health Policy and Investor-State Dispute Settlement (Benjamin Hawkins and Chris Holden)
  3. Politics and policy space for health – not quite health in all policies (Meri Koivusalo)


Anna Gilmore, University of Bath

Gary Fooks, Aston University

Jonathan Tritter, Aston University

Theo Papadopoulos, University of Bath

Discussion Chair

Professor Graham Room, University of Bath

Presentation Abstracts

Neoliberal march towards Rubicon river: Potential effect of Investor-State Settlement Dispute on social policy (Young Jun Choi, IPR & Yonsei University, South Korea)

While domestic neo-liberal policy makers have attempted to commodify health and social policies, free trade agreements with ISDS have embodied their influence. Economic and finance ministries, corporations, and policy makers have consistently pushed to liberalise health and social policies, and also vehemently promoted free trade agreements with many countries. This presentation will investigate how these two seemingly unrelated neo-liberal projects, national and international, are connected and their potential impacts on health and social policies. Finally, it will also discuss the extent to which this finding could be generalised in other FTAs including the TTIP.

Health Policy and Investor-State Dispute Settlement (Benjamin Hawkins, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Chris Holden, University of York)

The importance of trade and investment agreements for health is now widely acknowledged in the literature, with much attention now focused on the impact of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms. However, much of the analysis of such agreements in the health field remains largely descriptive. In this presentation, we theorise the implications of ISDS mechanisms for health policy by drawing upon key concepts from political science and international law. These concepts are illustrated with reference to two case studies of investor-state disputes involving a transnational tobacco company, but the implications of the analysis are of equal relevance for a range of other industries and health issues.

Politics and policy space for health – not quite health in all policies (Meri Koivusalo, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland)

The negotiation of “new generation” trade agreements has changed the focus of negotiations to services, investment and regulation with much broader implications to health and policy space for health. This has also implied a new kind of politics for negotiation with negative listing, more narrow exclusions and broader general commitments made as part of the negotiations with new elements enhancing inclusion of sectors under agreements on the basis of legislation. The paper will discuss how trade negotiations may affect national policy making for health, in particular, with respect to TTIP with examples on health services, pharmaceuticals and public health.