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Health Inequities, Trade and Global Governance Research Symposium

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La Trobe University, City Campus

Level 2, 360 Collins Street

360C - 3.03 Teaching Room 7 360C - 3.04 Teaching Room 8

Melbourne, VIC 3000

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This workshop will bring together researchers on health inequities, trade policy and global governance to explore key issues facing the Asia Pacific Region in the 21st century. Drawing on political economy perspectives, speakers will explore the relationships between health inequities and global economic governance, and intersections between trade, health and intellectual property rights, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific.


Professor Ronald Labonté PhD, FCAHS, HonFFPH, is Canada Research Chair in Globalization and Health Equity and Professor in the School of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Ottawa; and Professor, College of Health Sciences, Flinders University, Australia. His recent and current research focuses on the health equity impacts of: health worker migration; medical tourism; global health diplomacy; trade, political economy and tobacco control; trade and food security; health impact assessments of trade and investment treaties; comprehensive primary health care reforms; the social determinants of health equity; and health and foreign policy. He is active with the People’s Health Movement, and has consulted extensively with UN agencies, governments and civil society organizations. He is presently completing a textbook on globalization and health for Oxford University Press. See for a full list of publications and research projects.

Professor Sharon Friel is Professor of Health Equity and Director of the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), Australian National University. She is also Director of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy ANU. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences Australia. She is Co-Director of the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in the Social Determinants of Health Equity. Between 2005 and 2008 she was the Head of the Scientific Secretariat (University College London) of the World Health Organisation Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Her interests are in the political economy of health; policy, governance and regulation in relation to the social determinants of health inequities, including trade and investment, food systems, and climate change.

Dr Deborah Gleeson is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology and Public Health at La Trobe University. She has a Master of Public Health and a PhD in health policy. She teaches in the Bachelor of Health Sciences, Master of Public Health and Master of Health Administration. Her research interests focus on the impact of international trade agreements on health and she has published over 25 peer-reviewed papers on this topic. She is actively involved in the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) where she co-convenes the Political Economy of Health Special Interest Group and represents PHAA on issues related to trade and health. She was awarded a 2015 PHAA President’s Award for public health leadership, engagement and commitment on the impact of international trade issues on health.

Professor Susan Sell is a Professor in the School of Regulation and Global Governance, in the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. She is also Emeritus Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University and Board Member, Intellectual Property Watch (Geneva). She is an Editorial Board Member for International Studies Quarterly, the European Journal of International Relations, the Review of International Political Economy and Global Governance.

Dr Owain Williams is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland Public Health, and is former Fellow of the Centre for Health and International Relations, the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University, UK. He is an expert on the politics and political economy of health policy, and on intellectual property rights and access to medicines. He worked for the UNDP as a consultant on this area in 2014. He has published on access to medicines and global health governance, and new actors in health. His work includes, with Adrian Kay (eds.) Global Health Governance: Crisis, Institutions and Political Economy (Palgrave 2009); Partnerships and Foundations in Global Health Governance with Simon Rushton (eds.) ((Palgrave 2011), New Political Economy of Pharmaceuticals in the Global South (Palgrave 2013); and The Transformation of Global Health Governance (Palgrave 2014).


| 08:45 - Tea/Coffee on Arrival

| 08:55 - Welcome and Opening Remarks

| 09:00 - Global economic governance and health inequities

Professor Ron Labonté (University of Ottawa)

| 10:00 - Winners and losers – the politics of health equity in the Asia Pacific region

Professor Sharon Friel (Australian National University)

| 11:00 - Morning Tea

| 11:30 - Trade and health in the Asia Pacific region: challenges and opportunities

Dr Deborah Gleeson (La Trobe University)

| 12:30 - Lunch

| 01:00 - The international political economy of public health

Professor Susan Sell (Australian National University)

| 02:00 - The potential transformation in global medicines governance

Dr Owain Williams (University of Queensland)

| 03:00 - Close of Seminar



Global Health in the Great Gilded Age: Of Rising Tides and Perfect Storms

Professor Ron Labonte, University of Ottawa

Globalization has been described as a rising tide that lifts all boats. It has also been lambasted as a perfect storm of roaring inequalities. What does this mean for a global governance in which reducing health inequities and assuring ecological sustainability are no longer second-best to an ideology of disequalizing economic growth?

Winners and losers: the politics of health equity in the Asia Pacific region

Professor Sharon Friel, Australian National University

The nations responsible for implementing the 17 goals of the SDGs have competing and often conflicting domestic policy agendas and priorities. Health and health equity considerations are rarely at the forefront of such policy considerations. One of the SDG targets explicitly references the need to ‘enhance policy coherence for sustainable development’. At the same time, the SDGs encourage the use of trade as a means of pursuing various goals. Using a mega-regional trade agreement that includes many countries in the Asia Pacific region - the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement - this talk will explore the roles of different actors across the region, their interests and strategies used to bring health equity issues into the trade policy agenda.

Trade and health in the Asia-Pacific region: Opportunities and challenges

Dr Deborah Gleeson, La Trobe University

Over the last decade, many countries in the Asia Pacific have been involved in negotiations for three large regional trade agreements: The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus. Each has raised a significant, but somewhat different, set of health challenges, from access to affordable medicines and the risk of disputes over health policies brought by foreign corporations (TPP and RCEP) to reduced government revenue and lower prices for unhealthy commodities (PACER Plus). The negotiations for each agreement have also been highly controversial, plagued by delays and have thus far failed to realise the envisaged outcomes. This presentation will explore how health challenges have been resolved in negotiations to date, and the opportunities for raising the priority given to health issues, particularly in the context of the failure to date to realise the vision for a free trade area for the Asia-Pacific.

The International Political Economy of Health Governance

Professor Susan Sell, Australian National University

This presentation will address complex layers of international political economy that have clear and negative health impacts. Features of macro-political economy, including the globalisation of finance and trade liberalisation help us understand impacts on global public health and health governance. Trends in international trade, investment regulation and intellectual property protection pose pressing challenges to public health and will require new approaches to secure better health outcomes.

Price Discounts for the Poor: What is Pharma’s strategy for medicines tiered pricing, is it fair and how does it relate to the international IPRs regime?

Dr Owain Williams, University of Queensland

This paper looks at the current arrangements for the pricing of new all oral medicines for the treatment of Hepatitis C. Having learned from the experience of HIC medicines, Pharma has engaged in a process of licensing production and setting tiered prices for low-income countries. The paper examines the impact on those prices for delivering universal coverage of HCV positive people in Sub-Saharan Africa. It finds that the discounted prices are unaffordable for governments, people and perhaps even donors. So what is Pharma’s strategy? This paper analyses the rise and rise of tiered pricing for medicines in terms of Pharma’s market strategy for market control and profit and non-market strategy with respect to the international patent system.

Date and Time


La Trobe University, City Campus

Level 2, 360 Collins Street

360C - 3.03 Teaching Room 7 360C - 3.04 Teaching Room 8

Melbourne, VIC 3000

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