Obama administration retreats on tobacco control in Pacific trade talks

{mosads}The statement was signed by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

The watered-down measure, the groups said, represents “a missed opportunity for the United States to lead the fight against this global epidemic.”

“The end result is that the Obama Administration’s strong commitment to reducing tobacco use in the United States will remain vulnerable to international trade challenges, and other trading partners will remain vulnerable to such challenges as well.

A USTR spokeswoman told The Hill that the new proposal “is intended to preserve our ability to apply appropriate public health measures while ensuring that the handling of tobacco in TPP is consistent with our trade policy objectives.” She said the proposal contains three elements:  

  • A general exception for matters necessary to protect human life or health, including a provision indicating that the TPP Parties understand that general exception applies to tobacco health measures;
  • A provision requiring that before a Party initiates a challenge a through TPP dispute settlement to another Party’s tobacco regulatory measure, the health authorities of the concerned Parties  shall meet to discuss the measure. These two elements work together to preserve the right to regulate tobacco products domestically; and 
  • No changes to the market access element of the proposal. 

“As we do for other products,” she said, “we will continue to press for the elimination of tariffs on tobacco, which, by their very nature, discriminate against foreign suppliers.”

The new proposal is scheduled to be shared with U.S. partners when trade negotiators gather in Brunei starting Friday for the latest round of talks. The Obama administration hopes to conclude the trade talks with 11 other partners in Asia and the Americas by the end of the year.

This post was updated at 1 p.m. with comment from the USTR.

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