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As Congress Reviews Trans-Pacific Partnership Following ITC Report, Provision Protecting Tobacco Control Measures Warrants Strong Support

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 20, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) this week released its report on the likely economic impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, marking another key step toward congressional consideration of the agreement. As Congress evaluates the TPP, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids urges strong support for its historic provision that protects the sovereign right of the United States and other TPP nations to adopt public health measures to reduce tobacco use. This provision prevents tobacco companies from using the TPP to launch lengthy and expensive legal attacks on such measures.

This provision is essential because tobacco products are uniquely lethal – in fact, they are the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S. and worldwide – and tobacco companies have abused trade agreements to fight life-saving tobacco control measures around the world. The TPP’s safeguard for such measures is a landmark step for global trade and investment agreements that will help protect public health and reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco products. This provision is a strongly positive aspect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that members of Congress should take into account as they consider this agreement.

Some members of Congress from tobacco-growing states have indicated they will oppose the TPP because of this provision. If they do so, the ITC report underscores that they will be hurting the overall agricultural interests of their states and even the interests of tobacco growers. The ITC report concludes that the U.S. agriculture and food sectors would gain the most under the TPP. It also points out that U.S. tobacco products would experience substantial tariff reductions under the agreement, resulting in export gains. Thus, despite the rhetoric of the tobacco companies, the TPP safeguards the sovereign right of nations to protect the health of their citizens from tobacco-caused disease without harming the interests of tobacco growers.

If members of Congress oppose the TPP purely on the basis of the tobacco provision, they will be sacrificing the broader interests of agriculture, including tobacco growers, in order to protect the narrow interests of multinational tobacco corporations that don’t manufacture in the U.S., don’t sell in the U.S. and hire very few people in the U.S.

It is also important to reiterate that the tobacco provision would not impact and explicitly exempts trade in tobacco leaf. It is focused on preventing tobacco manufacturers’ abuse of the international trade system and addresses the actions of these manufacturers, not growers.

Without strong government action, tobacco products will kill one billion people worldwide this century. The TPP protects the right of nations to take necessary steps to reduce tobacco use and save lives. This safeguard for tobacco control measures is supported by dozens of public health and medical groups in the United States, and many more around the world.