PETALING JAYA: A regional anti-tobacco group has praised Malaysia for taking a lead role to limit the influence of tobacco companies under the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.
Non-profit organisation Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca), said during the trade negotiations, the Government had tabled a proposal to carve out or exclude tobacco measures entirely from being subject to the free trade pact.
The proposal was widely supported by public health groups and no participating country in the negotiations opposed the move.
A compromise was ultimately reached under which tobacco firms were not allowed under the agreement to sue against a country’s control measures such as packaging and advertising under the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism.
“Malaysia should be commended for initially tabling a proposal for a more comprehensive plan to carve out tobacco control measures entirely from the trade pact.
“While the final outcome of the agreement on disallowing the use of the mechanism to challenge tobacco control measures is a compromise, it is still huge,” said Dr Mary Assunta, Seatca Senior Policy Adviser, in a statement here yesterday.
The agreement, she added, was the first multilateral free trade agreement in the 21st century to exclude tobacco companies from using the mechanism.
Describing the exclusion as a victory for tobacco control, she also urged the Government to remain vigilant when drafting stronger tobacco control measures.
This was because governments would still have to contend with other chapters of the trade agreement that provided leeway to the tobacco industry to thwart their efforts.