Trade and Health

WHO works to achieve greater policy coherence between trade and health policy so that international trade and trade rules maximize health benefits and minimize health risks, especially for poor and vulnerable populations. The focus is to strengthen capacities in the Ministries of Health to best enable them to work effectively with their colleagues in the ministries of trade, commerce and finance in efforts to shape and manage the trade policy environment for health.

The objective for WHO is to support Member States to achieve greater coherence between international trade and health policy, focusing on building the knowledge base, provide training and country support to strengthen capacity within WHO and of WHO Member States to recognize and act on the implications of trade and trade agreements for health.

Diagnostic Tool on Trade and Health

The WHA Resolution 59.26 on International trade and health calls upon WHO to provide support to Member States to frame coherent policies to address the relationship between trade and health, and to respond to Member States’ requests for support of their efforts to build the capacity to understand the implications of international trade and trade agreements for health and to address relevant issues through policies and legislation. It also requests WHO to work with competent international organizations to generate and share evidence on the relationship between trade and health.

To implement this resolution, WHO is working with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Bank and other partners to develop a diagnostic tool and companion workbook in trade and health, that will guide national policymakers in

  • developing national policies and strategies related to trade and health, and
  • structuring their requests for capacity building in issues related to trade and health.


- David P. Fidler, Carlos Correa, Obijiofor Aginam. Draft Legal Review of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) from a Health Policy Perspective

- Chantal Blouin, Nick Drager, Richard Smith (ed.) International Trade in Health Services and the GATS: Current Issues and Debates. Published in September 2005 by the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

- WTO agreements and public health. A joint study by the WHO and the WTO Secretariat. Geneva, World Health Organization and World Trade Organization, 2002.

- Trade in health services: global, regional and country perspectives. Washington DC, Pan American Health Organization, 2002.

- Smith R. Foreign direct investment and trade in health services: a review [pdf 257kb]

- Drager N. Making trade work for the public health. BMJ, 1999, 319:1214. [pdf 131kb]


The following papers are in draft form for restricted distribution only. They reflect work in progress. For further information, please write to


Handbook of International Trade in Services, edited by Aaditya Mattoo, Robert M. Stern and Gianni Zanini, Oxford University Press, 2008

Chapter 11 of this Handbook " Trade in Health Services and the GATS" edited by Richard Smith, Chantal Blouin, Nick Drager, and David P. Fidler elucidates from both the trade and health perspectives the nature and implications of international trade in the health sector, and thus it assists the formulation of trade policy and international negotiations in the health sector.

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