Those requirements have appeared in previous fast-track bills. They sound perfectly reasonable, right?
Well, consider this: Australia is a party to the TPP and already has a free trade agreement with the United States. Under Australian law, cigarettes must be sold in “plain packaging.” Health warnings have to cover at least 75 per cent of the front of most tobacco packaging, 90 per cent of the back of cigarette packaging and 75 per cent of the back of most other tobacco product packaging. The health warnings often take the form of gruesome images of the physical harm smoking can cause.
Philip Morris Asia, based in Hong Kong, claims the law unfairly discriminates against its products and thus violates the 1993 Hong-Kong-Australia Bilateral Investment Treaty. The company has filed for adjudication with the UN’s trade dispute settlement body. If Philip Morris wins, Australia will not have to repeal the law, but it could be compelled to pay damages to Philip Morris.
Wouldn’t that be ironic – paying damages to a corporation whose products damage people’s health? A corporation that was, along with other American tobacco companies, found guilty of fraudulently covering up the health risks of smoking and marketing cigarettes to children?
Congress could take all this into account when it drafts the fast-track bill for the TPP. It could demand that the tobacco industry be excluded from the agreement’s dispute settlement chapter. That would be the right thing to do. There is nothing good about tobacco and everybody knows it.