Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for death and disability, responsible for 3 million deaths in 2016. The alcohol industry is a powerful player in shaping trade and investment rules in ways that can constrain the ability of governments to regulate alcoholic beverages to reduce harm. This paper analyses publicly available submissions about alcohol in the context of Australia's free trade agreements to determine the key themes put forward by industry.
Design and methods
We searched for submissions made to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade by alcohol industry trade associations, alcohol manufacturers, distributors and retailers, general industry association, and government agencies with responsibilities for alcohol trade, about specific free trade agreements involving Australia. Thirty-one submissions in relation to eight trade agreements were included for analysis. The analysis involved both descriptive content analysis and thematic analysis.
Findings suggest that industry is actively seeking to shape trade negotiations around alcohol. Priority issues for the industry include improving market access, harmonising regulation, improving clarity and transparency, reducing the burden of regulation and preventing monopolies on product names.
Discussion and conclusion
The alcohol industry and associated business and government organisations are actively working to influence trade agreement negotiations for industry economic gain, arguing for rules which may undermine public health goals. The analysis suggests that public health experts should pay attention to trade and investment agreements and develop counter frames to ensure agreements do not create barriers for coherent health policies.