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HHS Global Health Official Discusses Tobacco-, Drug Patent-Related Trade Negotiations

Inside U.S. Trade features an interview with HHS Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Nils Daulaire, who discusses how “the department is playing a larger role than ever before in the development of U.S. trade policy, including on sensitive issues in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations like a draft proposal for a tobacco-specific ‘safe harbor’ and the U.S. stance on issues related to intellectual property protections for pharmaceuticals,” according to the publication. “Daulaire said that, historically, the department’s role in formulating trade policy has been more marginal,” Inside U.S. Trade writes, adding, “He said that in the past, HHS had waited to be ‘the last on the clearance list’ in the interagency process, and made clear in the interview that he wanted HHS to play a much larger role on health-related trade issues.”

“On tobacco, HHS has played a role in developing the ‘safe harbor’ from tobacco-related litigation that the Obama administration has publicly described, but not yet tabled, in the TPP negotiations,” Inside U.S. Trade reports, adding, “The ‘safe harbor’ proposal would clarify that, notwithstanding other rules contained in the final TPP deal, national health authorities may adopt regulations that impose origin-neutral, science-based restrictions on specific tobacco products or classes in order to safeguard public health.” According to Daulaire, tobacco control “is unquestionably at the very top of our policy agenda in terms of domestic health, in terms of global health, and in terms of the interface with the trade environment,” the publication states. “HHS is also playing a role in developing U.S. trade policy when it comes to access to medicines in the TPP,” Inside U.S. Trade writes, adding, “While unable to speak to the precise nature of the deliberations within the administration, Daulaire said that HHS officials ‘are now very much engaged in this and in these conversations and are looking for ways to make sure that public health is well protected in this process’” (4/22).