Funding Success: £813.6k secured from the NIHR to work on trade challenges at the World Trade Organization to promote better health for all

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Professor Amandine Garde, Founding Director of the Law & Non-Communicable Diseases Research Unit (Law & NCD Unit), has received a £813,600 research grant from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) for a project to investigate the impact of trade on implementing policies to prevent NCDs.

The UK government is currently considering a range of policies to address noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including obesity, diabetes, cancers, heart disease and strokes. These include the regulation of food, alcohol and tobacco products through packaging requirements, age restrictions and product bans.

However, as such policies are likely to have a significant impact on trade, they must be notified to the Technical Barriers to Trade Committee (TBT) where they may be challenged by representatives from other governments.

This three-year interdisciplinary research project, led jointly by Professor Amandine Garde at Liverpool Law School, and Dr Gregory Messenger, University of Bristol, will examine how governments across the world have defended their policies to prevent NCDs at the TBT Committee. It will focus on the evidence that governments have presented at the Committee and how evidence has been treated by other World Trade Organisation members to highlight how the UK Government and others can increase the chances of successfully implementing NCD prevention strategies.

This project is a continuation of the extensive academic and policy work that Liverpool’s Law & NCD Unit has undertaken in recent years to understand how the tobacco, alcohol and food industries have used legal strategies to oppose the effective regulation of their commercial practices, and how these strategies can best be addressed to promote better health for all.

The core research team for the project, which runs between July 2023 and June 2026, will be led jointly by Amandine Garde (Principal Investigator) and Dr Gregory MessengerUniversity of Bristol (Joint Lead). The Team includes Dr Gabriel Siles-Brügge from the University of Warwick, Marcelo Campbell, also at the University of Liverpool, and Dr May van Schalkwyk from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (Co-Investigators). They bring their collective expertise in the fields of trade law, political economy, health, public policy, the politics of evidence, and food environments, and an established track record in policy-relevant research and capacity building.

The core team will be able to draw on the complementary expertise and experience of research associates from around the world, and an advisory board including the UK Department of Health and Social Care, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization, and several civil society organisations working in the UK and beyond.

Professor Amandine Garde, Founding Director of the Law & NCD Unit, said:

“At the WHO’s World Health Assembly last year, we heard a record number of commitments from governments promising to promote healthier environments to address NCDs. Our research project will investigate the extent to which governments follow through with their commitments and take action in this area, in the face of potential issues surrounding trade.”

Professor Valsamis Mitsilegas, Dean of the School of Law and Social Justice, said: 

"I would like to congratulate Professor Garde on this outstanding achievement, which is a testament to the rigour of the School of Law and Social Justice and Liverpool Law School research, and its reach across the disciplines."

The project findings will generate academic publications and be distilled into accessible practice-focussed reports to support government officials in developing, notifying, and defending NCD prevention policies at the WTO. The research team will also develop and deliver training to embed these findings within the work of government and civil society and create materials to communicate them to a wider public audience in the UK and beyond.


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