Exclude tobacco from trade talks, Seatca urges

Published: 23/09/2014 at 06:00 AM

The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) has called for tobacco products to be withdrawn from current and upcoming trade and investment negotiations.

Seatca requested that no special trading privileges or incentives be given to tobacco companies in the future, arguing that international trade agreements threaten tobacco-control policies.

Seatca also aims to prevent governments being sued by tobacco companies for implementing public health policies, or having to consult with the tobacco industry before passing such laws.

Thailand has ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and by doing so, has agreed to strengthen anti-tobacco laws, said Bungon Rithhphakdee, Seatca director.

“We must take a firm standpoint and find a balance between foreign investment and protecting public health,” Ms Bungon said at a regional conference held in Bangkok.

The FCTC is not solely the responsibility of the Public Health Ministry, Ms Bungon said.

“Tobacco is no ordinary product. We are talking about a product which kills its consumers; therefore we feel it should not be on the list of items negotiated in trade agreements.”

The Seatca’s proposal is not unprecedented. During Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations in Brunei in 2013, the Malaysian government requested that tobacco products be excluded from the agreement.

The move came after tobacco company Philip Morris filed a lawsuit against Malaysia’s increase of tobacco prices.

Read more: http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/433684/