SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The U.S. has a rare opportunity this week to rein in the tobacco industry, protect health and save lives, while proudly exercising cross-border diplomacy. The U.S. Trade Representative should accept Malaysia's historic proposal to carve out protections for Big Tobacco from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a mega-trade deal among 12 Pacific Rim nations, including the U.S. The TPP negotiators are meeting starting today to consider the proposal in Washington, D.C.
Trade agreements are supposed to lower prices for goods through competition. But lower prices for cigarettes means more kids will buy them, with damaging results for health.
Predatory tobacco corporations abuse global trade rules to challenge tobacco control measuresthat apply to a country's own domestic products, like limits on cigarette packaging.They have contested the U.S. law to ban flavored cigarettes, to keep kids from getting addicted.
Malaysia's Chief Negotiator last week proposed the only effective solution: carve out tobacco control regulations and laws, and also remove tobacco products, from being covered by the TPP.
CPATH and important medical and public health allies immediately applauded Malaysia's carve out proposal. On Sunday, Sept. 1, the NY Times editorial board stated their support.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death, claiming 6.3 million deaths a year, including 1,200 Americans daily, and draining almost $200 billion a year in U.S. health care costs and lost productivity. Tobacco is barely a blip in the U.S. economy, and less than a fraction of a percent of our exports.
Industry defenders are rushing to insist that the U.S. should unilaterally develop an alternative proposal, and bring it back to the negotiating table. In fact, just such a proposal developed by the U.S. in August was deemed by Maine legislators as virtually ineffective.
The truth is, it is not that complicated. Carving out tobacco is a reasoned adjustment to rules for a dynamic global economy. In 2007 the Bush administration decided to exclude the U.S. gambling services sector from coverage by World Trade Organization rules, after the WTO ruled against the U.S. internet gambling ban. It is also consistent with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international covenant supported by 176 countries worldwide, including all TPP partners except the U.S.
The TPP negotiations are negotiations. Our trading partner, Malaysia, has summoned the political will to advance a straightforward, effective proposal, one long advocated by every major medical and health organization that has looked into the matter.
After almost four years of talks, the 12 TPP countries have reportedly made only partial progress on key issues. Acknowledging countries' rights to adopt their own domestic regulations on tobacco is one issue where the U.S. Trade Representative can and should gracefully demonstrate statesmanship, as well as the Administration's determination to reduce the toll of preventable deaths, and agree to Malaysia's historic proposal to carve out tobacco from the TPP.
Ellen R. Shaffer PhD, Co-Director, Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health (CPATH)
SOURCE Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health (CPATH)