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"The Obama administration is working with other Trans-Pacific Partnership countries to prevent Big Tobacco from challenging their anti-smoking laws through the rules of the trade deal, much to the ire of tobacco-state lawmakers and business groups. The push-back from those lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, adds a significant wrinkle to the White House’s push to gain congressional approval of the sprawling trade deal, which it sees as essential to securing President Barack Obama’s economic legacy. Up to now, McConnell has been among the president’s staunchest allies on trade. While he stopped short of pulling his support from the deal, the Kentucky Republican warned in a letter that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman should “not set a new precedent for future U.S. trade negotiations by negatively carving out a specific American agricultural commodity — in this case tobacco.” Tobacco, he noted, is the second-highest agricultural export in Kentucky, which sold $300 million of the commodity in 2013 alone. During last month’s trade talks in Hawaii, Froman discussed the idea of a tobacco exclusion with several countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, sources close to the talks say. The proposal would bar tobacco companies from challenging public health laws that they claim hurt their business investments under the deal’s so-called investor-state dispute settlement clause...U.S. business groups have largely echoed the views of tobacco-state lawmakers, saying they oppose any attempt to single out a specific product for special treatment under the deal."

Posted August 11th, 2015