In multilateral meetings around the world, policies related to junk food, mother’s milk and access to medicines and vaccines — all widely thought to have been moving in a direction favorable to underdeveloped countries such as Mexico — have taken a turn in the opposite direction.
The reversals occurred at the 71st U.N. World Health Assembly in Geneva and during NAFTA negotiations in the western hemisphere and have been spearheaded singlehandedly by the United States under the banners of curtailing “free rides” for small countries and of promoting big business, intellectual property rights (for large pharmaceutical companies), free speech (for advertisers), free choice (by consumers of mass-produced food) and even science (alternative science).
One such reversal — a U.S. attempt to thwart warning labels on sugary and junk foods such as soda pop — has been building both in Geneva and in the NAFTA talks between Mexico, Canada and the United States. (President Donald Trump is a longstanding critic of this 1994 trade agreement, which principally reduced Mexico’s high tariffs on imported Canadian and U.S. products.)
This spring, for example, the United States succeeded in weakening the World Health Assembly’s advice to developing countries such as Mexico that are afflicted by soaring obesity (spurred by sky-high consumption of junk food produced by giants such as Nestle, Coca Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills and others).