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Big Tobacco Wants TPP Trade Deal To Block NZ’s Smoking Laws

(Dec. 5, 2011) The Green Party is calling on the Government to reject attempts to introduce investor-state disputes mechanisms into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations in light of evidence that the Philip Morris tobacco company is planning to use the TPP to block anti-smoking laws.

“Most New Zealanders will be shocked to learn that the huge multinational tobacco company Philip Morris is using trade agreements to try to stop governments from introducing anti-smoking measures. But it is true,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

Philip Morris is currently taking action against Uruguay’s proposed anti-smoking laws under the investor-state disputes mechanism of the trade agreement between Uruguay and Switzerland (1). Uruguay is proposing to introduce new measures requiring 80 percent of cigarette packaging to carry graphic warnings against smoking. The company argues such measures effectively expropriate their investments. Under the investor-state disputes mechanism a World Bank panel will decide if Uruguay must pay Philip Morris for this ‘expropriation’.

Philip Morris is also targeting New Zealand’s TPP negotiations to ensure there are investor-state disputes mechanisms so Philip Morris will be able to sue governments that attempt to introduce similar anti-smoking laws.

Philip Morris’ submission (2) on the TPP to the United States Government specifically identifies proposals to introduce plain packaging of cigarette packages. They argue that such plain packaging of cigarettes is “tantamount to expropriation on the use of long-held and extremely valuable property rights”.

Philip Morris argues that investor-state disputes mechanisms in the TPP are essential so that companies can “submit disputes to independent international tribunals, a vital part of protecting its foreign investments”.

Dr Norman said the measures recently announced in the Māori Affairs Select Committee report on tobacco—such as plain packaging—would clearly fall foul of Philip Morris’ view of their investment rights.

“Our Government should not be so stupid as to sign up to investor-states disputes mechanisms that allow foreign corporations to challenge our democratic laws in undemocratic World Bank tribunals.

“Philip Morris wants investor-state disputes mechanisms in the TPP so it can stop countries introducing measures to reduce harm from smoking. We should say no,” Dr Norman said.

References
(1) International media coverage of Philip Morris case against Uruguay – http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/health/2010/11/22/uruguay-takes-tobacco-giant-philip-morris/

(2) Link to Philip Morris submission on TPP – http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/contentStreamer?objectId=0900006480a81299&disposition=attachment&contentType=pdf

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