Op-Ed

Tobacco from all nations excluded in trade pact

The commentary that objected to the Herald-Leader's editorial board's support of the proposed carveout of tobacco from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, known as TPPA, contained misleading information that requires clarification.

Contrary to the implication in the commentary, a tobacco carveout would not apply exclusively to U.S. tobacco, let alone Kentucky tobacco.

TPPA removes tariffs and trade barriers that operate among the partnering countries. A tobacco carveout would apply equally to all tobacco within the TPPA free-trade zone. Removing tobacco from the agreement will not disadvantage U.S. or Kentucky tobacco relative to exports from other countries. It will simply leave tobacco products from all countries in the same competitive position they are in today.

Excluding tobacco from the agreement is in line with current U.S. law, which prohibits the federal government from promoting the sale or export of tobacco or tobacco products.

In 2001, then-President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13193, which forbids federal departments and agencies from promoting the sale or export of tobacco through U.S. trade policy. It also requires that the Department of Health and Human Services play an advisory role in U.S. trade deliberations on tobacco. Every year since 1997, Congress has passed an appropriations rider that includes a prohibition on promoting the sale or export of tobacco.

These laws are still in force and binding on the current administration. Excluding tobacco from the TPPA will ensure that the Obama administration is complying with existing U.S. law.

Eliminating trade barriers that protect domestic markets from foreign tobacco leads to increased tobacco use. History shows that a sharp increase in imported tobacco following the elimination of trade barriers increased consumption of tobacco, leading to greater death and disease. This is well documented for Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand. The World Bank report, "Curbing the Epidemic: Governments and the Economics of Tobacco Control," noted that removing tobacco trade barriers can cause a 10 percent increase in consumption.

The threat from the TPPA is particularly acute for Vietnam, which has maintained high tobacco tariffs since joining the WTO in 2007. If Vietnam is forced to give up its tobacco controls in the TPPA, it could face the same public hea1th consequences we've seen before.

Responsible trade policy acknowledges what we've known for decades: Tobacco is a uniquely dangerous product that causes death and disease from ordinary use. Tobacco is not just another agricultural product that deserves promotion through U.S. trade policy. It is the target of the world.

The World Health Organization's first and only treaty — which all of the TPPA countries, except for the United States, have ratified — recognizes the devastating effects of tobacco and its increasing threat to global health and welfare. Including tobacco in the TPPA would undermine the success of this treaty in preventing tobacco-related disease around the world.

This fight is about protecting the right of our partner countries to maintain tobacco regulations without interference from multinational tobacco corporations. It is about not forcing them to accept increased imports of foreign tobacco products that can lead to more death and disease for their citizens. And ultimately, this fight is about protecting the health of the next generation.

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