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August, 2013:

Tobacco clause might burn free trade agreement

Tobacco clause might burn free trade agreement


August 26, 2013


Peter Martin

Peter Martin

Economics correspondent

Trade Minister Mustapa Mohammed.

Trade Minister Mustapa Mohammed. Photo: Erin Jonasson

The timetable for completing the world’s largest free trade agreement is slipping as negotiators in Brunei express concern at US proposals to give tobacco companies the power to sue governments and to weaken government control of state-owned enterprises.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations now include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, as well as Japan, which joined in this year.

Australia absented itself from the trade ministers’ meeting because of the election.

In a blow to US hopes of wrapping up the negotiations this year the joint statement released in Brunei described the remaining issues as “sensitive and challenging”.

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The US had wanted to finish talks this year to fit in with a domestic political timetable.

Before the meeting New York mayor Michael Bloomberg accused President Barack Obama of bowing to “pressure from the tobacco industry” to dump a so-called safe-harbour provision that would have protected nations such as Australia from being sued by tobacco companies for restricting the sale of tobacco products.

Earlier drafts had included the safe-harbour clause in light of “the unique status of tobacco products from a health and regulatory perspective”.

Mr Bloomberg said the tobacco industry had been “joined by other business interest groups that were fearful the safe-harbour provision would lead to other products being singled”.

Australia’s Labor government has said it would not accept any provisions that would allow corporations to sue Australian governments. The Coalition has given no such commitment.

Malaysia’s trade minister Mustapa Mohamed told the meeting he would not be bound by arbiter-proposed clauses that would loosen Malaysia’s grip on state-owned enterprises and threaten its “affirmative action” program of giving preference to ethnic Malays when awarding contracts.

He said other countries shared his concern about state-owned enterprises.

The negotiations will continue at an officials level before a ministerial meeting at APEC in Bali in October

Why Is Obama Caving on Tobacco?

Op-Ed Contributor

Why Is Obama Caving on Tobacco?

Description: Description:

Harry Campbell


Published: August 22, 2013 321 Comments

LAST year I endorsed President Obama for re-election largely because of his commitment to putting science and public health before politics. But now the Obama administration appears to be on the verge of bowing to pressure from a powerful special-interest group, the tobacco industry, in a move that would be a colossal public health mistake and potentially contribute to the deaths of tens of millions of people around the world.

For Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.

Although the president’s signature domestic issue has been health-care reform, his legacy on public health will be severely tarnished — at a terrible cost to the poor in the developing world — unless his administration reverses course on this issue.

Today in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, representatives from the United States and 11 other nations begin the latest round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade agreement. The pact is intended to lower tariffs and other barriers to commerce, a vitally important economic goal. But if it is achieved at the expense of people’s health, the United States and countries around the world will be worse off for it.

The early drafts of the agreement included a “safe harbor” provision protecting nations that have adopted regulations on tobacco — like package warnings and advertising and marketing restrictions — because of “the unique status of tobacco products from a health and regulatory perspective.” This provision would have prevented the tobacco industry from interfering with governments’ sovereign right to protect public health through tobacco control laws.

Countries (and cities) that have adopted such regulations have had great success reducing smoking rates and saving lives. In New York City, where we have adopted some of the most comprehensive tobacco policies in the world, the smoking rate among adults has fallen by nearly one-third, and among high school students it has been cut in half. This progress helped to increase average life expectancy: in 2010, it was 80.9 years in the city, more than two years longer than in the country as a whole.

This week, however, the Obama administration bowed to pressure from the tobacco industry and dumped the safe harbor provision from the trade compact. The tobacco industry was joined by other business interest groups that were fearful that the safe harbor provision would lead to other products’ being singled out in future trade accords.

So instead of the safe harbor, the Obama administration is now calling for a clause requiring that before a government can challenge another’s tobacco regulation under the treaty, their health authorities must “discuss the measure.” The administration will also try to ensure that a general exception for matters to protect human life or health (typical in trade agreements) applies specifically to tobacco regulation.

But these are weak half-measures at best that will not protect American law — and the laws of other countries — from being usurped by the tobacco industry, which is increasingly using trade and investment agreements to challenge domestic tobacco control measures.

If the Obama administration’s policy reversal is allowed to stand, not only will cigarettes be cheaper for the 800 million people in the countries affected by the trade pact, but multinational tobacco corporations will be able to challenge those governments — including America’s — for implementing lifesaving public health policies. This would not only put our tobacco-control regulations in peril, but also create a chilling effect that would prevent further action, which is desperately needed.

Tobacco use causes more deaths around the world than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. If nothing is done, one billion people will die of tobacco use by the end of this century. Through my philanthropy, I have supported grass-roots efforts overseas to discourage tobacco use. Bangladesh, for instance, has enacted new rules that are a big step toward banning smoking in public places and on all modes of transportation. In Vietnam, we helped build public support for comprehensive new legislation that includes some of the most effective tobacco-control techniques, like advertising bans and graphic warning labels on packages.

But if the trade pact proceeds without the safe harbor provision, this progress will be jeopardized, a devastating setback for the global effort to reduce tobacco use, particularly because the signatories to the trade pact include nations — like the United States, Australia and Vietnam — that have some of the world’s strongest tobacco control measures. If the Obama administration caves, the tobacco rules of its own Food and Drug Administration will be subject to challenge.

I could not be more strongly in favor of trade agreements that expand economic opportunity here and around the globe. But a deal that sells out our national commitment to public health, and forfeits our sovereign authority over our tobacco laws, does not merit the support of Mr. Obama; of the Senate, which would have to ratify it; or of the American people.

Michael R. Bloomberg is the mayor of New York City.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 23, 2013, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Why Is Obama Caving on Tobacco?.

Tony Abbott tells Liberals to quit donations from tobacco companies

Tony Abbott tells Liberals to quit donations from tobacco companies

Opposition leader says party will refund $2.6m donated since 1999 only if Labor gives back money from Health Services Union


· Lenore Taylor, political editor

·, Thursday 22 August 2013 04.22 BST

· Jump to comments (57)

Tony Abbott has told his party to quit tobacco donations.Tony Abbott compared Kevin Rudd to the Hogan’s Heroes character Sergeant Schulz. Photograph: Mike Bowers/Global Mail

Tony Abbott has instructed the Liberal party to accept no further donations from tobacco companies on the grounds that Labor was using the issue as a “distraction” in the election campaign with its promise to ban all tobacco donations to political parties.

But Abbott said he would only ask the Liberal party to refund the $2.6m donated by tobacco companies since 1999 if Labor promised to refund to union members the donations it had received from the embattled Health Services Union, and if Rudd himself refunded a “travel sponsorship” he received from a “German tobacco company”.

“I think that’s a fair deal,” Abbott said.

Rudd has said he was unaware a trip he took to Germany last year to attend the second Berlin foreign policy forum was funded by the Korber Foundation, which owns a company that makes machinery for the tobacco industry.

“That someone like myself, then as a backbencher travelling overseas to a conference hosted by a foundation, should have prior knowledge as to where a foundation, a German public interest foundation, may derive its funding from … you just don’t know those things and I didn’t know it at the time,” he said when asked about the trip recently.

He said it was wrong to “draw by inference a moral comparison between attending an international conference funded by an international foundation, which for the purposes of that conference or more generally has a range of funding sources, with the Liberal party in 2013 taking direct campaign donations worth millions of dollars to fund the political advertisements on the airwaves today”.

Abbott said Rudd was “like the [Hogan’s Heroes character] Sergeant Schulz of this campaign. When it suits him not to know he doesn’t know.”

Labor stopped taking tobacco donations in 2004. The Coalition has continued to accept donations. The Coalition at first criticised Labor’s recent announcement of a 60% increase in tobacco excise over four years, but then said it would retain the measure

Tobacco snuffed out in TPPA

Tobacco snuffed out in TPPA

Posted on 18 August 2013 – 09:09pm

Soo Wern Jun


KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 18, 2013): In a victory for the anti-tobacco lobby, Malaysia has decided to remove tobacco from the list of goods that can be brought into the country under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the “carve-out” is the best way to manage tobacco in the agreement.

He said it is up to the Malaysian team to be involved in negotiations in Brunei to present its case for the “carve-out”.

Stating that the Health Ministry had officially made a proposal earlier to carve out tobacco, Subramaniam added that it is an issue that all countries should agree on.

“I believe that all the countries should agree on the carve-out because a trade liberalisation protocol cannot include tobacco.

“I don’t think any country by virtue of its policies allows for liberalisation of (tobacco-related) trade. We have restrictions for the use of tobacco (at the moment),” he said.

The ministry’s decision comes on the heels of efforts by the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) to persuade the government to exclude tobacco from the TPPA.

Last week, MCTC sent a letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak pointing out that Malaysia would be contradicting the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) if it also signed the TPPA.

It is inconceivable that Malaysia would be a signatory to both agreements as the respective obligations on the nation were poles apart, MCTC president Dr Molly Cheah said.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr N.K.S Tharmaseelan had said that tobacco is the only product that kills half its users prematurely and causes numerous life-threatening diseases and reduces productivity.

There is simply no justification for tobacco to enjoy the privileges of free trade as provided for under TPPA, he said.

The government has come under fire from NGOs for alleged lack of transparency in the manner in which TPPA negotiations had been conducted.

Hong Kong is going backwards


Asia pays heavy price on front line of ‘smoking epidemic’

Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 12:00am



Howard Winn

Hong Kong-based anti-smoking lobbyist Judith Mackay has been writing in The Lancet about efforts to control smoking in the region. “Asia is at the front line of the tobacco epidemic,” she says.

It has the highest number of tobacco users in the world, and more than half of the world’s tobacco is consumed in Asia, making it “the prime target of transnational tobacco companies”.

The region is paying a high price for its involvement with tobacco. On the mainland, between 2003 and 2008, some 3.2 per cent of total health-care expenditure went on treating tobacco-related illnesses. The Asian Development Bank last year estimated that without taxation smoking would eventually kill 267 million current and future cigarette smokers who are currently alive in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.

Tobacco control measures employed in the region since 1980 have seen the rate of smoking in men halved in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore.

The World Health Organisation estimates that in Southeast Asia some 1.3 million people die every year from tobacco-related disease, whereas in the western Pacific region two people die every minute, “placing a huge burden on health-care systems”.

Interestingly, Mackay observes that one of the obstacles to tobacco control include “governments’ preoccupation with other events or diseases that cause far fewer deaths than tobacco, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, avian influenza, or financial crises”.

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New smuggling operation proves easy case to crack

Wednesday, 14 August, 2013, 12:00am

NewsHong Kong


· scmp_05jul12_ns_money1_dl_1393a_29741545.jpg

New smuggling op proves easy case to crack

Clifford Lo

Customs find 1.3m cigarettes inside fake water heaters after cheap material gives game away

Contraband cigarettes from the mainland have been found hidden in fake electric water heaters that look just like the real thing – complete with built-in electric socket, power switch and an energy-efficiency label stuck on the casing.

Only the plastic casing gave the game away; they are usually made out of metal.

The new smuggling technique was uncovered by customs during a raid in Kwun Tong.

“It comes in a white, metre-tall shell. From its appearance, it looks like a real electric water heater,” said Walter Mak Hoi-wan, head of the Customs and Excise Department’s revenue and general investigation bureau.

“But the shell is made of plastic and is empty inside. It’s just a plastic container.”

Each container was used to hold 70 packs of cigarettes, Mak said.

The discovery was made on Monday, when officers raided an industrial unit that was used as a repackaging and distribution centre for illicit cigarettes.

Officers arrested two Hong Kong men, aged 29 and 45, and seized 1.3 million cigarettes with an estimated market value of HK$3.3 million.

Most of the cigarettes were found hidden in 69 of the fake water heaters. Another 26 fake heaters were at the site.

Lai Sau-ieng, deputy head of the bureau, said she believed recent enforcement action had led some syndicates to look for new concealment methods in an attempt to evade detection.

She said investigations showed the centre had been in operation for less than a week and the consignment was for local consumption.

The two Hongkongers were understood to have been hired to repack the cigarettes. They were held for questioning last night and had not been charged yet.

Customs seized 51 million contraband cigarettes worth HK$127.5 million in the first seven months of this year.

That compared with 36.8 million cigarettes worth HK$92 million found in the same period last year. The department attributed the increase to enhanced enforcement action against the sources of illicit cigarettes.

Spain seizes HK$22m of fake cigarettes from China

Published on South China Morning Post (

Home > Spain seizes HK$22m of fake cigarettes from China

Spain seizes HK$22m of fake cigarettes from China

Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 10:41am



· cigs.jpg

The counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes were destined for France, authorities believed. Photo: AFP

Agence France-Presse in Madrid

Police in Spain have seized 465,000 packs of fake cigarettes worth more than 2.2 million euros (HK$22.6 million) smuggled by boat from China, the interior ministry said on Monday.

The seizure in Valencia led to 10 arrests, the ministry added.

Police believe the counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes were destined for France as the text on the packets was in French, the ministry said in a statement.

Two Spaniards and eight Polish nationals were arrested in the operation.

The cigarettes arrived in Valencia last month on a ship from the port of Chiwan, just north of Hong Kong.


Michigan Restaurant Association says members are doing fine with smoking ban in place

Michigan Restaurant Association says members are doing fine with smoking ban in place

Saturday, August 10, 2013 5:44 p.m. EDT

Cigarette smoking (Reuters)

LANSING, MI (WTVB) – Three years after fighting the state’s ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, even the Michigan Restaurant Association agrees most eateries are actually doing better or doing the same.  That’s the word from Justin Winslow, who is the lobbyist for the group.  He told Lansing’s MIRS News that the MRA has adapted and is no longer trying to change the law.



Children harmed by parents’ smoking

You +1’d this publicly. Undo

Cotinine levels in the seven-year-olds were four times higher than in children of non-smoking mothers, research found. And by the time the 



Smoking taxes work

You +1’d this publicly. Undo

The Australian06/08/2013

A 10 per cent increase in cigarette prices is estimated to reduce overall smoking by as much as 5 per cent in the short term and possibly more