Alcohol labelling rules in free trade agreements: Advancing the industry's interests at the expense of the public's health Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Introduction and aims

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) included novel rules for wine and spirits requiring parties to allow wine and spirits importers to display information required by the importing country on a supplementary label rather than on the standard label. Since the TPP negotiations concluded, alcohol-specific supplementary labelling rules have begun to appear in other trade agreements. The aim of this paper was to map the new instruments containing these rules and examine developments in the rules with implications for health information on alcohol containers.

    Design and methods

    Trade agreements signed after the TPP negotiations concluded were retrieved and searched for alcohol-specific labelling provisions. A legal analysis of these provisions and related exceptions was undertaken.

    Results

    Supplementary labelling rules similar or identical to those in the TPP have been included in five subsequent trade agreements. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement also includes several additional provisions about alcohol labelling. Exceptions in the agreements provide some space for governments to defend labelling measure that might otherwise breach the rules, in the event of a dispute.

    Discussion and conclusions

    By securing these rules, the alcohol industry is better positioned to claim the space on the standard label as industry 'real estate' and to oppose mandatory health information incorporated into the standard labelling. These risks can be mitigated by stemming the adoption of supplementary labelling rules in further trade agreements; clarifying the text of agreements and ensuring that regulators understand that the rules do not prevent the use of 'best-practice' warning labels.

publication date

  • January 1, 2021