0 comments

Big tobacco could unduly influence TPP trade negotiations, Julia Gillard says

by on December 23, 2013
 

Negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) need to be on the lookout for the “stealthy” influence of big tobacco, former prime minister Julia Gillard has warned.

Writing for Guardian Australia on Monday, Gillard warned that tobacco-related aspects of the trade deal negotiations could be unduly influenced by tobacco companies, which are seeking to challenge domestic tobacco laws restricting or diminishing the sales of their product.

Amid ongoing TPP negotiations, Gillard writes: “Like all trade deals, negotiators only empty their pockets and get the deal done if the push from national leaders is hard enough. But as negotiators tussle, in this trade deal and in every other, the sharpest of eyes need to be on the lookout for the stealthy influence of big tobacco.”

Australia has had mandatory plain packaging since December 2012, and its effect on making cigarettes less attractive to smokers – both current and potential – has been shown.

Several of the 12 participating nations are looking to protect their right to enact similar laws to Australia’s plain packaging legislation, however there are concerns about the strength of them, given that Australia is currently embroiled in a number of disputes at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regarding the plain packaging laws. Gillard estimated the cost of these disputes will be measured “in the millions of dollars”.

“We know that the tobacco companies, because they have admitted it, are providing legal advice to WTO members in order to encourage them to take action against Australia,” secretary of the Australian Department of Health, Jane Halton, told Reuters in May.

The US recently proposed a revised TPP clause which would allow tobacco corporations to sue a nation over their domestic laws, but only after discussions between the health authorities of the two countries occurred first.

“These two elements work together to preserve the right to regulate tobacco products domestically,” reads the proposal.

This proposal waters down the US’s first position advocating a carve-out which quarantined tobacco laws from potential trade disputes except in the cases of discrimination based on country of origin.

“The carve-out matters, as does the question of the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provisions,” writes Gillard.

“Such provisions give companies a new place to take disputes – a tribunal that stands separate from and above domestic legal systems.”

Fairfax reported last week that Australia was seen as a “stumbling block” to other nations.

Citing a leaked memo from the negotiations, the report quotes concern that Australian delegates are worried TPP language will imply weaknesses in plain packaging legislation.

“What I am really trying to understand is what appears to be Australia’s resistance to any language on tobacco, and its seeming lack of interest in working on language that would protect Australia and others from future tobacco trade-based litigation,” said the email.

By Helen Davidson – Source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663879/s/351e7350/sc/39/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cworld0C20A130Cdec0C230Cbig0Etobacco0Ecould0Eunduly0Einfluence0Etrade0Enegotiations0Ejulia0Egillard0Esays/story01.htm