Newspaper article The Canadian Press

U.S. Tobacco Proposal in TPP Won't Affect Canada's Anti-Smoking Laws: Ottawa

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

U.S. Tobacco Proposal in TPP Won't Affect Canada's Anti-Smoking Laws: Ottawa

Article excerpt

Tobacco proposal in TPP not a concern: Ottawa

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OTTAWA - The Canadian government says it sees no specific threat in a controversial U.S. proposal to include tobacco in the TransPacific Partnership trade negotiations that health advocates argue will make it more difficult to enforce anti-smoking campaigns.

A spokesman for Trade Minister Ed Fast says the government is still reviewing the proposal, along with another Malaysia tabled Tuesday that would carve out tobacco from the TPP altogether, but said it does not believe there will be any impact on Canada's anti-smoking regulations.

"Canada's ability to regulate in the public interest, including health, remains unchanged in the U.S. proposal," said Rudy Husny, press secretary to the trade minister, who last week was in Brunei for the start of the latest round in the talks.

Other Canadian officials say the U.S. proposal does not give tobacco companies any more rights to sue countries than currently exist.

They noted that under the international General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, countries are already free to enact safety and health measures. The U.S. proposal would make that ability clear in the language, as well as call for country-to-country consultations by public health officials before any challenge is launched.

But health advocates have been hopping mad about the proposal, in part because in their view it is weaker than Washington's previous position of a "safe harbour" for tobacco control laws, and insist it does given tobacco companies the ability to challenge countries.

On Tuesday, the U.S-based Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, backed the Malaysian solution, noting that "the tobacco industry and its allies in governments increasingly use trade and investment agreements to challenge legitimate tobacco control measures, and have done so specifically against laws adopted in the U.S., Australia, Uruguay, Ireland, Norway and Turkey."

The legal challenges are not only aimed at removing restrictions on marketing and advertising, such as plain-packaging provisions that all but eliminate the branding on cigarette packages, but "also discouraging governments from enacting them in the first place," the group's executive director Susan Liss said. …

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