Frihandeln ger bättre folkhälsa

Frihandel förbättrar folkhälsan i de länder som ingår i frihandeln. Tidskriften The Hill skriver om en rapport från The Geneva Network, en think tank som arbetar med handel, utvecklingsfrågor och hälsopolitik.  Rapporten visar att folkhälsan påverkas positivt av frihandel.

”North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiators met in Mexico City recently, hoping to keep alive a deal that has set the terms for trade between Canada, Mexico and the United States since the mid 1990s.

Opponents of free trade will be praying for failure. For them, NAFTA is not only the economic enemy of working people, but also damaging to their health.

An internal memo circulated in October by White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro blamed manufacturing decline — and by extension NAFTA — for a catalogue of health problems, from rises in infertility to more early deaths.

Navarro’s broadside follows decades of argument by academics that free trade damages health by promoting economic insecurity and inequality, worsening pollution and even by making unhealthy foods more available.

This is seductive but misguided. In reality, the end of NAFTA and a reduction in free trade would do real damage to health.

Most opponents of NAFTA focus on localised negative impacts, but few look at the bigger picture. Notably, there is a new and growing economic literature looking at the relationship between free trade and health. There is near consensus that fewer trade barriers means healthier populations.

While all countries become healthier from an increased openness to trade, most studies find the benefits to be even greater for lower-income countries.


(But) the impact of free trade on health goes beyond increased economic growth. The opening of international borders since the Second World War has been instrumental in disseminating health-related technologies.

Drugs, vaccines and medical devices are now available in all corners of the world, often for no more than a few cents — a remarkable achievement. While trade will obviously continue in the absence of NAFTA, new barriers could disrupt their flow across North America.

Pre-NAFTA, Mexico imposed tariffs of up to 15 percent on medicines imported from the United States and Canada. Thanks to NAFTA, these tariffs were abolished, removing a regressive tax on the sick. A more competitive Mexico has allowed its pharmaceutical industry to emerge as a regional leader, with many Americans depending on its cheap, high-quality generic medicines.

With NAFTA gone, Mexico could well reinstate the 15-percent tariff, still applied to medicine imports from outside the bloc, raising the price of newer medicines imported from the United States. Mexico is grappling with new health challenges that come with a longer living population, such as increasing rates of cancer.

Further health complications would come from disruption to the medical device industry. Under NAFTA, the industry has developed an international supply chain responsible for driving down the price of everything from pacemakers to knee pins.”

Poängen är relativt enkel.

För det första blir hälsan bättre när det ekonomiska välståndet ökar så mat, vatten, avlopp och miljö förbättras. Och för det andra blir mer och billigare medicin och medicinsk teknik tillgänglig för fler genom arbetsdelning och specialisering.

Föreställningen om att frihandel hotar folkhälsan bygger på att stillar sig blind på vissa detaljer, ofta missförstådda, kring konsumentskydd, kemikalier, genetiskt modifierade organismer och liknande.

Men den stora bilden är entydig. Frihandel förbättrar folkhälsan.