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Keywords:

  • INFORMAS;
  • non-communicable diseases;
  • obesity;
  • trade agreements

Summary

The liberalization of international trade and foreign direct investment through multilateral, regional and bilateral agreements has had profound implications for the structure and nature of food systems, and therefore, for the availability, nutritional quality, accessibility, price and promotion of foods in different locations. Public health attention has only relatively recently turned to the links between trade and investment agreements, diets and health, and there is currently no systematic monitoring of this area. This paper reviews the available evidence on the links between trade agreements, food environments and diets from an obesity and non-communicable disease (NCD) perspective. Based on the key issues identified through the review, the paper outlines an approach for monitoring the potential impact of trade agreements on food environments and obesity/NCD risks. The proposed monitoring approach encompasses a set of guiding principles, recommended procedures for data collection and analysis, and quantifiable ‘minimal’, ‘expanded’ and ‘optimal’ measurement indicators to be tailored to national priorities, capacity and resources. Formal risk assessment processes of existing and evolving trade and investment agreements, which focus on their impacts on food environments will help inform the development of healthy trade policy, strengthen domestic nutrition and health policy space and ultimately protect population nutrition.