The United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations on Oct. 5 reached a final agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after eight years of negotiations, and a provision that excludes the tobacco industry from participation in the TTP’s dispute system has been welcomed by advocates of public health.
The TPP—which is the largest regional trade accord in history—includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam, bringing together countries representing two-fifths of the world’s economy.
Included in the TPP is a provision that protects the right of participating nations to adopt public health measures that aim to reduce tobacco use. The provision also prevents tobacco companies from using the TPP to launch legal attacks on such measures, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
This tobacco “carve-out” from the TPP’s investment dispute system—which would bar tobacco companies from challenging governments’ health policies and threatening lawsuits for the passage of anti-tobacco regulations—has received pushback for its potential to hurt the American tobacco industry but represents a victory for public health advocates.
The provision is viewed by health groups as a critical step toward ending the tobacco industry’s efforts to challenge tobacco control measures—Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco sued the British government in May for the introduction of plain-packaging laws—and it sets an important precedent for future trade agreements.
Tobacco companies have been permitted to challenge governments in the past thanks to investor-state dispute settlement provisions that allow them to sue countries for implementing legislation or regulation that could hurt their profits; however, the tobacco carve-out under the TPP would permit signatory countries to exclude tobacco products from industry protection provided under trade agreements.
The conclusion of the TPP negotiations marks an important first step to developing a set of common rules that govern trans-Pacific commerce, but President Barack Obama now faces the challenge of securing approval of the deal from the U.S. Congress.