Leading U.S. public health groups are urging newly confirmed United States Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman to move forward with a proposal that would protect nations’ authority to enact measures to reduce tobacco use under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement the U.S. is negotiating with 11 other countries.
In a letter to Froman, the health groups urged USTR to offer the proposal at the next round of negotiations, scheduled for July 15-25 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (CONFIRM DATES). USTR first indicated in May 2012 that it planned to propose language that would protect nations’ authority to adopt tobacco control measures under the TPP and prevent such measures from being challenged as violations of the agreement, but it has yet to do so.
The health groups involved are the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Tobacco products are unlike any other legal consumer product in that they kill when used as intended and there is no safe level of tobacco use. They should not be treated as other consumer goods in the course of international trade,” the letter states.
“From a public health perspective, international trade and investment rules should not result in increased tobacco consumption. They should also not inhibit any nation from exercising its sovereign authority to protect the health of its citizens by enacting legitimate public health measures aimed at reducing tobacco use.”
The letter points out that tobacco companies increasingly have used trade agreements to challenge tobacco control measures, including measures adopted in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Ireland, Norway, Turkey and Uruguay. The tobacco industry and its allies have waged a major campaign to prevent the U.S. proposal on tobacco from being introduced in the TPP negotiations.
The full text of the letter follows:
June 24, 2013
The Honorable Michael Froman
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20508
Dear Ambassador Froman:
Congratulations on your confirmation as the next United States Trade Representative.
As you carry out the United States’ ambitious international trade and investment agenda, we urge you to do so in a way that is consistent with this Administration’s strong commitment to reducing tobacco use. Specifically, we request that the United States move forward, at the next round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, with tabling language that ensures no provision of the TPP can be used as a legal basis to prevent any participating nation from enacting the strongest possible, non-discriminatory tobacco control measures that it considers appropriate for the protection of public health.
Tobacco use kills nearly six million people globally each year and will kill one billion people worldwide this century unless urgent action is taken. In the U.S. alone, more than 400,000 deaths each year are attributable to tobacco use, making it the leading cause of preventable death.
Tobacco products are unlike any other legal consumer product in that they kill when used as intended and there is no safe level of tobacco use. They should not be treated as other consumer goods in the course of international trade. Further, there is a global consensus that nations must act to reduce tobacco use as reflected in the world’s first public health treaty – the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC, which is widely ratified with 176 Parties to date, obligates its Parties to implement effective, evidence-based measures to reduce both the supply of and demand for tobacco products.
It is critical that the Administration recognize the uniquely lethal character of tobacco products and the international standard for their regulation under the FCTC as it negotiates several trade pacts that seek to address “next-generation” issues that extend well beyond lowering tariffs. From a public health perspective, international trade and investment rules should not result in increased tobacco consumption. They should also not inhibit any nation from exercising its sovereign authority to protect the health of its citizens by enacting legitimate public health measures aimed at reducing tobacco use.
These basic principles should be included in the TPP as well as in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the plurilateral agreement currently being negotiated in Geneva, the Trade in Services Agreement.
The potential abuse by the tobacco industry of these non-tariff provisions in trade and investment
agreements to nullify much-needed tobacco control measures is a serious threat to global public health. With the enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009, the U.S. has even more reason to ensure that our international trade agreements do not interfere with decisions by our Congress and our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about how best to protect the American public from the devastating harms of tobacco. We have already seen that trade rules can be used to undermine the FDA in setting policies designed to protect Americans. The tobacco industry has also used trade agreements to challenge FCTC-based tobacco control measures in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Norway, Turkey and Uruguay.
The United States is and long has been a world leader in seeking to reduce tobacco use within our borders and across the globe. As this Administration continues negotiating high-standard trade and investment agreements, we urge you to ensure that America’s economic growth also furthers the health of its citizens. You can do so by ensuring that nothing in these agreements prevents our nation or our current and future trading partners from taking strong, non-discriminatory action to protect the public health against the tobacco epidemic.
Our organizations respectfully request a meeting with you to discuss our views about trade policy and its impact on tobacco control. We can be reached by contacting Matthew L. Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-296-5469.
Thomas K. McInerny, MD, FAAP
American Academy of Pediatrics
Nancy A. Brown
Chief Executive Officer
American Heart Association
President and Chief Executive Officer
American Lung Association
Matthew L. Myers
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids