Journal of Public Health Policy

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 491–501 | Cite as

Commentary: Moving towards policy coherence in trade and health

  • Helen WallsEmail author
  • Phillip Baker
  • Richard Smith


International trade has brought economic benefits to many countries, but the association of trade and investment liberalisation with poor health outcomes concerns the public health community. The need to secure more ‘healthy’ trade is a recognised priority, especially as countries move from global to regional/bilateral trade agreements – with greater public health risks. However, a transition towards ‘healthier trade’ may be hindered by worldview differences between the trade and health communities. There is a tendency for health actors to perceive trade as a threat to population health, and for trade actors to view health as a constraint to trade objectives of reducing barriers to cross-border commercial flows and economic growth. Unless such differing worldviews can be aligned, finding ways forward for addressing public health in trade policy is likely to be difficult. Moving forward will involve understanding the values and drivers of the respective groups, and developing solutions palatable to their various interests. Given the power imbalances between the two areas, it is likely that the health community will have to make the first moves in this respect. This article outlines the key issues involved and suggests areas where such moves have been, and may be made.


trade health governance policy coherence 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Global Health and DevelopmentLondon School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineLondonUK
  2. 2.Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and HealthLondonUK
  3. 3.Regulatory Institutions Network, The Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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