PETRA is pleased to announce the publication of its research and development manifesto. It identifies the gaps and priorities for future research over the next five to ten years to investigate how trade and investment agreements (TIAs) could help tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at source.

This manifesto is the result of a lengthy process of examining the evidence and consulting with a wide range of academic, policymaker, and third sector experts across many disciplines. You can read more about the process, its triumphs, opportunities, and challenges in our previous blogpost.

Our manifesto recommends a three-pronged approach to future trade and health research in order to help address the root causes of NCDs.

Diagram listing the three themes of PETRA's R&D manifesto: relationship between trade and health, supporting current policy objectives, and using research tools.
Looking at the relationship between trade and health
PETRA believes that TIAs should provide the means by which obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights can be promoted. Applying a rights-based approach would support the G7’s commitments on human rights and would help UK trade deals to:

  • achieve policy coherence between the economy and health,
  • align trade policies with current objectives in addressing inequalities through the levelling up agenda,
  • support effective delivery of NCD prevention strategies in obesity, tobacco, harmful alcohol consumption and air pollution,
  • enable the UK to argue for the better and fairer trading rules at the World Trade Organization that will strengthen environmental, animal welfare, food safety, human rights and labour standards.

Supporting current policy objectives
PETRA believes that TIAs can and should support current policy objectives such as the levelling up agenda and Net Zero strategy as well as supporting the delivery of the Obesity Strategy. Using Health Impact Assessments as a screening tool for trade deals would identify the potential health and environmental consequences as well as assessing likely impacts on differing populations that are not being considered at present.

Using research tools
The evidence base on the impacts of TIAs on health can be strengthened through the use of three research tools in particular:

  1. modelling – using tools such as Computable General Equilibrium not only quantifies economic impacts but also those of NCDs.
  2. case studies  – a rapid and practical mechanism to investigate pressing issues such as the regulatory environment in relation to labelling and marketing.
  3. multidisciplinary analysis – taking a multidisciplinary approach to quantitative analyses broadens understanding both of the wider impacts of TIAs and how different communities use research evidence.

PETRA was commissioned to produce this manifesto by its funders, the UK Prevention Research Partnership. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time such a manifesto has been attempted in this field. As with all manifestos, this is a living document. It does not provide an exhaustive list of all potential research questions; the 16 questions identified are those that emerged from cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary discussions as being valuable starting points acceptable to all represented disciplines. Trade and health is an extremely broad field, notable for having a wide spectrum of interests. Our next step, therefore, will be to test its resonance with further stakeholders, including additional academic disciplines, the UK’s Parliaments, and the public, including young people.

In the meantime, we hope this manifesto will inform funding bodies on initial research priorities as well as provide relevant evidence for policymakers. However, as PETRA has said before, there are two key challenges for research in this field to be valuable: 1) ensuring that research is commissioned and delivered in an extremely timely manner and 2) engaging effectively with a political context that focuses on achieving economic outcomes without directly considering health.

Missing the current opportunities to inform trade negotiations risks further decades being mired in preventable NCDs.

The manifesto is summarised here and the full document is available here.

Latest tweets