Even though negotiators who are trying to finalize the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) seem to be in general agreement that tobacco products will have to be treated differently to other products, a case is being made in support of treating leaf tobacco in the same was as other agricultural commodities are treated, according to a story by Adam Behsudi for Politico.com, relayed by the TMA.
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is said to have written to US Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman saying Froman should ‘not set a new precedent for future US trade negotiations by negatively carving out a specific American agricultural commodity – in this case tobacco’ – from the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision.
The TPP, which has come under fire from a wide range of organizations in a number of countries, is being negotiated in secret by representatives of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.
Not much is known about the TPP negotiations because of the strict secrecy surrounding them and the little information that has emerged has been courtesy of Wikileaks. But it is understood that the ISDS mechanisms have comprised one of the most controversial issues and have been condemned by some politicians as being anything from a charter for big corporations to rip off taxpayers to an attack on democracy.
Behsudi quoted an unnamed source as saying “USTR was clear tobacco had to be treated differently and there was general agreement on that” at last month’s TPP talks in Hawaii.
But another source was quoted as saying the trade partners had made reference solely to manufactured tobacco products and not to leaf tobacco.
Behsudi quoted sources close to the talks as saying Froman reportedly discussed a proposed tobacco ‘carve-out’ with some countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, during last month’s TPP meeting in Hawaii.