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TPP Should Address U.S. Business Concerns But Address Health Risks Of Tobacco

“Tobacco sickens and, eventually, can kill if consumed as intended. Every country, the United States included, should be taking every effective step to prevent smoking,” a Washington Post editorial states. The U.S. “has wisely pursued pacts to expand free trade with partners around the world,” but “[w]hat to do … when free trade and tobacco control seem to be in tension?” the editorial asks, noting “[t]he question arises in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).” First, “the Obama administration favored a TPP provision exempting individual nations’ tobacco regulations — such as those banning advertising or requiring warning labels — from legal attack as ‘non-tariff barriers’ to the free flow of goods,” but a “new proposal simply specifies that tobacco is included in an existing exemption for policies necessary to protect human life or health, and requires governments to consult before challenging each other’s tobacco rules,” the editorial states.

The Washington Post notes the change likely was in response “to pushback from farm-state legislators, farm lobbies and other interest groups that feared a tobacco exception would expand to a health-related excuse for protectionism against many other products.” The editorial notes, “Though Asian countries have, in the past, discriminated against U.S. beef on trumped-up health grounds, U.S. agriculture’s fears this time are overblown. Tobacco is unique, and everyone knows it.” Citing a recently published brief by the Council on Foreign Relations’ Thomas Bollyky, the editorial concludes, “All concerned should strive for a TPP that addresses legitimate concerns of U.S. business — but reflects the unique dangers of smoking both here and abroad” (9/17).