TRADE agreements like the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) PACER Plus make it easy for exporters of unhealthy food to get access to markets in the Pacific.
And Pacific Island Countries that have joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are at the mercy of liberalised trade measures which have resulted in the easy introduction of fatty foods into the Pacific.
These were the views expressed by technical officer with the World Health Organisation (WHO), Doctor Ezekiel Nukura, at a workshop on the link between trade and non-communicable diseases which got underway in Nadi yesterday.
"Trade agreements also have implications for health and the health sector, whether they are multilateral, bilateral, linked to the WTO or linked to regional trading systems such as the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), PACER and PACER Plus.
"For instance, the PACER Plus agreement makes it easier for exporters of cheap unhealthy food, high in fat, sugar and salt to get access to markets in the Pacific," he said.
"Some countries in the Pacific have joined the WTO and as a consequence, they have been requested to liberalise trade measures that were put in place to protect public health such as bans on the importation of fatty turkey tails.
"Other countries are, similarly, struggling with cheap imported products such as sugar sweetened drinks lower than the price for bottled water and coconuts, and salty snacks being provided for free as part of promotional campaigns," he added.
Dr Nukura said a joint report by the WTO and WHO released in 2002 had stressed the critical importance for countries to have the right to take measures to restrict imports or exports of products when necessary to protect the health of humans, animals and plants when liberalising services
"In their joint Forward of the study report Dr Brutland WHO director general and Mike Moore WTO DG asserted that there is much common ground between trade and health, and that health and trade policy-makers can benefit from closer co-operation to ensure coherence between their areas of responsibility," he said.