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U.S. Senator: Trade Deals Shouldn’t Undermine Nations’ Efforts to Fight Tobacco

September 16, 2013

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has added his powerful voice to those urging that the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement must protect the rights of nations to adopt measures to reduce tobacco use. The United States is currently negotiating the trade agreement with 11 other countries.

Last year, the United States Trade Representative announced that it would propose strong language recognizing that tobacco products are uniquely harmful and protecting tobacco control measures from being challenged as a violation of the agreement. However, last month, the U.S. backed off this strong language and offered a much weaker proposal. Instead, Malaysia stepped forward with a proposal to “carve out” tobacco control measures from the agreement.

This issue is important because the tobacco industry has filed lawsuits challenging tobacco control measures in several countries as violations of trade and investment agreements. These abusive and expensive trade lawsuits are aimed not only at defeating tobacco control measures, but also at bullying governments so they don’t act at all.

What’s at stake is the sovereign right of nations to protect the health of their citizens from tobacco, which is the number one cause of preventable death around the world.

“We know Big Tobacco will stop at nothing to replace the thousands of customers they lose each year,” Senator Brown said in a speech on the Senate floor. “Americans don’t expect our trade negotiations to result in a situation that makes tobacco regulation in the United States and around the world more vulnerable to challenges.”

Senator Brown made the same points in a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative.

Watch Senator Brown’s powerful speech.