WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2013 – The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced Thursday that it intends to offer a new proposal related to the handling of tobacco regulations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement as negotiations resume today in Brunei.
Among other changes, USTR said, the new proposal would clarify that the TPP’s general exception for matters necessary to “protect human life and health” applies to tobacco health measures.
“Developed following extensive consultations with Congress and with a wide range of American stakeholders – from health advocates to farmers, representing many views on whether and how to address tobacco-related health policy measures in a trade agreement – this proposal will, for the first time in a trade agreement, address specifically the public health issues surrounding tobacco,” said Trade Representative Michael Froman.
Froman said the proposal will preserve the ability of the United States and other TPP countries to regulate tobacco and to apply appropriate public health measures while remaining consistent with U.S. trade policy objectives of negotiating a comprehensive agreement that does not create a precedent for excluding agricultural products.
“We will continue to keep our congressional partners and stakeholders informed and involved as we negotiate this challenging and important issue with TPP partners, many of whom will be taking into account the same range of concerns,” he said.
The new proposal would require that before a party initiates a challenge through TPP to another party’s tobacco regulatory measure, the health authorities of the concerned parties would meet to discuss the measure.
Bill Corr, deputy secretary of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) said, “HHS believes the proposed tobacco language in the TPP trade negotiation will make a difference for tobacco control and public health efforts.”
“The U.S. government seeks to include this language because tobacco is a unique product – it is highly addictive, always harmful to human health, and the single most preventable cause of death in the world,” Corr said. “Recognizing these facts about tobacco through the TPP will represent an important step forward for public health in the international trade community.”
USTR said the proposal would not change the market access element of the agreement and is consistent with long-standing trade and agriculture policy.
“As we do for other products, we will continue to press for the elimination of tariffs on U.S. agriculture exports, which, by their very nature, discriminate against American farmers,” USTR said.
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