Trade agreements influence the distribution of money, goods, services and daily living conditions – the social determinants of health and health equity, which ultimately impacts differentially on health within and between countries. In order to advance health equity as a trade policy goal, greater understanding is needed of how different actors frame their interests in order to shape government priorities, thus helping to identify competing agendas across policy communities.
This paper reports on a study of how policy actors framed their interests for the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. We analysed 88 submissions made by industry actors, not for profit organisations, unions, researchers and individual citizens to the Australian government during treaty negotiations. We show that policy actors’ ideas of the purpose of trade agreements are shaped by competing underlying assumptions of the role of the state, market and society. We identify three primary framings: a dominant neoliberal market frame, and counter frames for the public interest and state sovereignty. Our analysis highlights the potential enabling and constraining impact of policy frames for health equity. In particular, the current dominant market framing largely excludes the social determinants of health and health equity. We argue that advocacy needs to tackle head on the underlying assumptions of market framings in order to open up space for the social. We identify successful examples of health framing for equity as well as opportunities for engagement with ‘non-traditional’ allies on shared issues of concern.
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