• April 21, 2024

Support for trade agreement with tobacco ‘carve-out’

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) is urging the US Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which, if passed, could not be used by the tobacco industry to launch legal challenges against public health measures aimed at reducing tobacco use.

Last week, the text of the TPP, whose eight-year-long negotiations were kept secret from the public, was finally published by the 12 countries that are signatories to the agreement: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

The TPP’s implementation would mean the phasing-out of thousands of import tariffs and other trade barriers, the establishment of uniform rules on corporations’ intellectual property, a new code of conduct governing lawyers selected for Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) panels, and a tobacco ‘carve-out’ from the dispute system that otherwise would allow foreign corporations to challenge governments’ health policy decisions.

ISDS provisions of the TPP proved to be some of the most controversial and taking tobacco out probably allowed the negotiations to continue.

The CTFK described the agreement as a ‘truly historic step for public health’ because it ‘includes a provision that protects the right of participating nations to adopt public health measures to reduce tobacco use and prevents tobacco companies from using the TPP to launch legal attacks on such measures’.

‘This provision is a critical step toward ending the tobacco industry’s growing abuse of trade agreements to challenge life-saving tobacco control measures all over the world,’ the CTFK’s president Matthew L. Myers said in a statement issued through PRNewswire. ‘It sets a precedent for other trade agreements and boosts efforts to combat a global tobacco epidemic that kills millions each year.

‘Until Congress approves this agreement, the tobacco industry and its allies are certain to make every effort to defeat or weaken the provision protecting tobacco control measures. We urge President Obama and members of Congress to stand firm and reject these efforts.’

The New York Times reported in October that even though President Obama had ‘fast track’ trade promotion authority ensuring that trade pacts received expedited consideration in Congress with a yes-or-no vote without amendments or filibusters, the TPP could face months of debate.

At that time – before the text was announced – the Times said that labor unions, environmentalists and liberal activists were expected to argue that the TPP favored big business over workers and the environment.