KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s strong stand to carve out tobacco from the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement has been lauded by public health groups across the world.
The newly-concluded TPP has excluded tobacco companies from using the investor state dispute settlement mechanisms or ISDS.
The 12 countries in the grouping have agreed to a provision disallowing tobacco companies from suing a country’s tobacco control measures such as packaging and advertising of tobacco products.
The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance said it is the first time tobacco has been singled out in a free trade agreement.
“This TPP decision is a giant leap for tobacco control and sets a new standard for investment law making in the region.
“No other multilateral trade agreement ever recognized the nefarious character of the tobacco industry,” said Dr Mary Assunta, Senior Policy Advisor of SEATCA, a regional non-profit organisation.
“The Malaysian government should be commended for initially tabling a proposal for a more comprehensive proposal to carve-out tobacco control measures entirely from the TPP.
“The move by Malaysia during the negotiations had not received opposition from the other 11 countries.
“Despite this victory for tobacco control, governments must remain vigilant when they draft stronger tobacco control measures as they still have to contend with the other chapters of the TPP that provide leeway to the tobacco industry to thwart their efforts.”
SEATCA urged Malaysia to continue to lead the way on this in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement being negotiated now.
“We hope Malaysia will continue in its leadership and champion efforts towards a full carve-out of tobacco control measures in future trade and investment agreements.“
Tobacco kills about 500,000 people in the ASEAN region every year.