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U.S. Trade Officials Should Side With Public Health In Trade Negotiations

“Give thanks to Malaysia for heading off, at least temporarily, an American effort to weaken the ability of countries to impose stiff rules on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products within their own borders,” a New York Times editorial states, noting, “The Malaysian proposal to preserve that ability led to a stalemate at a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade meeting in Brunei last week and forced the deferral of the issue to future meetings.” According to the newspaper, “The American proposal simply refers to other international agreements that allow exceptions for public health and requires health officials from the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries to consult each other before making trade challenges,” but it “leaves the door open for multinational tobacco companies to challenge legitimate tobacco control measures, as they already have in several countries in recent years.”

“Malaysia countered by proposing a complete carve-out of tobacco control measures that would protect a country’s ability to set its own rules for marketing, advertising, banning or taxing various tobacco products, among other control measures,” and “it would remove the danger that some countries might not enact strong tobacco control measures in order to avoid any possibility of challenges,” the New York Times writes. Noting the “Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and several other medical and patient advocacy groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,” support the Malaysian proposal, the editorial concludes, “American trade officials need to toughen their stance when Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations resume. They should be siding with the public and those concerned about public health, not the makers of products known to be lethal and highly addictive” (8/31).