Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement threatens tobacco regulations by Iowa, other states
(DES MOINES, Iowa) Attorney General Tom Miller today urged U.S. trade representative Michael Froman to ensure that states can continue to enforce tobacco products under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), which the U.S. is currently negotiating with 11 Pacific Rim countries.
"We request that any such agreement explicitly provide that it does not apply to trade or investment in tobacco or tobacco products," Miller and 44 state and territorial attorneys general wrote in a letter to Froman.
The TPP trade deal, which is in the final stages of negotiations that began for the U.S. in late 2009, is intended to enhance trade and investment among member countries, promote innovation, economic growth and development, and support the creation and retention of jobs.
But Miller, who was a lead negotiator in the landmark 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry, is concerned that the treaty would classify tobacco products much like other goods. The result, Miller said, could open the door for tobacco companies to mount new legal challenges to federal, state and local laws and regulations.
Tobacco companies could challenge regulations directly, through investor protection provisions, or indirectly, by persuading member countries to fight the regulations through the TPP's trade protection provisions. Those challenges would occur outside of the U.S. legal system and with different standards, Miller added.
"The agreement's proposed language has a real potential to undermine what we've worked so hard to accomplish, and that's reducing the use of products that kill people and add enormous costs to our nation's health care system," Miller said.
Miller and the attorneys general requested Froman to push for a tobacco product "carve out," which would exclude trade deal-related challenges to any tobacco product laws or regulations.
"We just can't give the tobacco industry a chance to exploit this agreement by using it as an opportunity to try to undermine tobacco regulations through new avenues of litigation," Miller said. “While this is a significant international trade agreement, we can’t allow it to trump important state laws and regulations that address tobacco control.”