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IPS Examines Debate Surrounding TPP Trade Agreement Tobacco Regulation Proposals

“Between concluding rounds of negotiations towards the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major U.S.-proposed free trade agreement, a divisive fight has heated up over the extent to which countries should be allowed to regulate the sale of foreign — potentially far cheaper — tobacco products,” Inter Press Service reports. “In dueling proposals offered during the latest round of negotiations, in Brunei late last month, the United States and Malaysia put forward starkly different approaches,” IPS writes, noting, “While Washington is urging that tobacco products be given no special consideration, the Malaysian government has countered that these items should receive a special ‘carve-out,’ exempting them from a broader lifting of trade restrictions.” The news service adds, “Now, critics of the U.S. proposal are hoping to emphasize the health implications of these proposals ahead of the next 12-country TPP talks, slated to take place here in Washington starting September 18.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “a long-time proponent of greater tobacco control, recently suggested that the U.S. proposal could directly contribute to ‘tens of millions’ of deaths globally,” IPS continues, adding, “Advocates of tougher restrictions are warning that the U.S. scheme would be particularly dangerous to developing countries.” The news service writes, “Not only could the proposal open these economies to potentially cheap cigarettes coming from other countries, but it would also make them vulnerable to expensive litigation from powerful tobacco interests if these countries try to impose trade restrictions.” IPS notes, “In the TPP negotiations, the new U.S. position rescinds an earlier draft proposal that included an exemption for tobacco-control measures,” adding, “Instead, the new proposal simply recognizes that countries are allowed to put in place health regulations, similar to other treaties.” According to the news service, “The administration of President Barack Obama had initially hoped to have a final agreement text by October, but that now looks extremely unlikely” (Biron, 9/7).