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Congressional Progressive Co-Chairs Ask Obama Administration to Stand Against Tobacco Companies

WASHINGTON— Earlier today, the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), sent a letter to United States Trade Representative Michael Forman asking the Obama Administration to take a stand against tobacco companies looking to secure their future profits in countries around the world through provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would allow them to sue governments that enact public health policies to reduce tobacco use. 

The letter states, “Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions allow companies to bring claims against foreign nations whose new policies may hurt those companies’ future profits. The tobacco industry has systematically misused these provisions, along with threatening letters to deter countries from implementing tobacco control measures.”

The CPC has consistently opposed the ISDS provisions in the TPP. The letter concludes by asking USTR Froman to ensure that the final TPP agreement includes provisions protecting countries against abuse of ISDS by tobacco companies only concerned with their bottom line.

“Tobacco companies have shown time and time again that they are only concerned with one thing – profits,” Rep. Ellison said. “While the United States has wised up to Big Tobacco, many nations around the world have yet to pass strong laws that protect their citizens against tobacco use, particularly developing countries. TPP will make doing so even more difficult if it fails to prevent tobacco companies from using ISDS to protect their profits. For the TPP to be the most progressive trade deal ever, the Administration must ensure it includes a provision preventing tobacco companies from thwarting public health policies that curb tobacco use. Such a provision would be one of the very few silver linings in an otherwise awful trade deal.”

“The ISDS provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are a dream come true for Big Tobacco, allowing them to sue nations that implement public health laws protecting their citizens from the harms of tobacco use,” Rep. Grijalva said. “If the TPP does not include an exception for tobacco in its ISDS, it will literally help ensure more people suffer the health effects of tobacco use. The tobacco industry is already in the business of harming its customers – we cannot be party to a trade deal that makes it easier for them to continue that horrible business model.”

 

Full Text of Letter:

The Honorable Michael Froman
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW Washington, DC 20508

Dear Ambassador Froman:

As you continue to negotiate health-related matters in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), we write to raise concerns about the detrimental effects of tobacco products and industry efforts to hide these facts. The TPP must include provisions that protect countries against challenges from the tobacco industry when their legislatures enact public health policies to reduce tobacco use. Without these provisions, a trade agreement like TPP combined with lower tariffs will lead to increased consumption of tobacco products.

There is a global tobacco epidemic. Tobacco kills one person every six seconds worldwide and is the leading cause of preventive death in the United States. Tobacco costs the U.S. approximately $170 billion in health care expenditures and more than $150 billion in lost productivity each year.

Left unabated, tobacco products are projected to kill one billion people this century. To combat the danger of tobacco, countries like the United States, Britain, and Australia implemented tobacco control measures; in the last 60 years, they saw smoking rates plummet. Conversely, the smoking rate is actually increasing in 40 other countries around the world; this is especially true in developing countries.

From Uruguay, to Hong Kong and Australia, corporations have increasingly used trade deals to challenge laws meant to protect consumers from the dangers of tobacco products. As you know, Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions allow companies to bring claims against foreign nations whose new policies may hurt those companies’ future profits. The tobacco industry has systematically misused these provisions, along with threatening letters to deter countries from implementing tobacco control measures. They have consistently placed profits over public health, spending millions lobbying for less restrictive tobacco policies, and taking the ultimate toll on human lives.

Trade agreements must not be used as a tool for business interests to subvert public health policies. For the TPP to truly be the most progressive trade deal of the 21st century, it must include provisions that protect against such behavior. While smoking rates in the United States may have dropped, we urge the Office of the United States Trade Representative to lead the fight against death and disease from tobacco products around the world.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

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CPC Letter - Stand Against Tobacco Companies (10/28/1511:06 AMET )