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Obama Administration Backs Away From Anti-Tobacco Efforts Under TPP Proposal, The Hill Reports

“The Obama administration is backing away from plans to protect U.S. tobacco-control measures from legal challenges under a pending Pacific trade deal, earning the wrath of public health groups,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports. “The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) last year suggested creating a ‘safe harbor’ that would have [made] it difficult for cigarette companies to undermine domestic anti-smoking efforts under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),” the blog writes, noting, “Instead, critics say, the USTR has opted for weaker language that simply restates existing international trade policy that recognizes countries’ authority to enact health and safety measures.” According to the blog, “The new proposal is scheduled to be shared with U.S. partners when trade negotiators gather in Brunei starting Friday for the latest round of talks,” and the “Obama administration hopes to conclude the trade talks with 11 other partners in Asia and the Americas by the end of the year.”

“‘The new USTR proposal does not recognize tobacco as a uniquely harmful product or provide a safe harbor for nations to regulate in order to reduce tobacco use, as the initial proposal would have done,’ a coalition of five public health groups said in a statement … signed by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics,” according to the blog. “The watered-down measure, the groups said, represents ‘a missed opportunity for the United States to lead the fight against this global epidemic,'” the blog adds. “A USTR spokeswoman told The Hill that the new proposal ‘is intended to preserve our ability to apply appropriate public health measures while ensuring that the handling of tobacco in TPP is consistent with our trade policy objectives,'” the blog notes (Pecquet, 8/20).