The U.S. failed in a last-ditch effort to complete the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) earlier this week in Singapore, pushing the free trade agreement negotiations to 2014. A number of disagreements among the negotiating countries remain, but one of the most important is how to deal with tobacco. The draft TPP includes provisions that allow corporations to drag governments to court over regulations the corporations feel will impact their profits, including regulations on health, the environment, labor rights, etc. The tobacco industry has used similar language in smaller treaties to block tobacco regulations, and Philip Morris International has two large cases pending against Uruguay and Australia. These cases are heard in foreign tribunals behind closed doors, with judges being selected from among corporate attorneys. The decisions are not reviewable by domestic courts (not even our Supreme Court), and corporate profits almost always win over social progress.
In August, Malaysia made history by proposing that tobacco regulations get full immunity from these corporate lawsuits under the TPP. U.S. organizations representing hundreds of thousands of public health officials, practitioners and advocates have applauded Malaysia’s proposal, and urged the U.S. to agree [link to]. Unfortunately, the U.S. has its own proposal on tobacco, drafted in consultation with corporate lobbyists, which does nothing to protect tobacco regulations.
In Singapore, Malaysia stood firm in its resolve, refusing to bend to U.S. pressure to abandon its stance. ASH will continue to work with a coalition spanning the Pacific to support Malaysia and convince the U.S. that tobacco industry profits should not be placed above the billion lives at risk this century from tobacco-related diseases.