Tobacco Asia

Volume 19, Number 5

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46 tobaccoasia / Issue 5, 2015December/January) By Chris Bickers The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the wide- ranging trade agreement negotiated among 12 Pacific Rim countries and agreed on October 5, 2015, may yet lose its biggest participant over a controversial provision that would exempt tobac- co from protections allowed for other agricultural sectors if and when the pact goes into effect. Not surprisingly, tobacco-state legislators have vowed to oppose TPP because if it "carves out" tobacco products from the dispute resolution procedure created by the treaty, it would deprive cigarette manufacturers of any realistic protection against hostile regulation. "It is essential as you work to finalize TPP, you allow Kentucky tobacco to realize the same economic benefits and export potential other US agricultural commodities will enjoy with a success- ful agreement," wrote senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to the US trade represen- tative in July. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina ex- pressed dismay when he read the final version of the treaty draft that was released in November. He thought he had the trade representative's assur- ance that tobacco would not be treated differently than other farm commodities. "Now that we have more details about TPP, it is abundantly clear that President Obama and his allies have stacked the deck against North Carolina Why the Clash Over the Tobacco Carveout Could Scuttle US Ratification of TPP The senators from North Carolina promised to vote no on TPP--because they antic- ipated it would harm the state's tobacco industry. Here, Thom Tillis (at microphone) and Richard Burr, both Republicans, participate in a public debate. The senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, had hopes early for TPP but found the carveout provision unpalatable and now opposes it. McConnell has an ear to Asia: He is married to Elaine Chao, a Taiwanese national of Chinese descent, who served as U.S. Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush. agriculture," said Burr. "I won't accept any deal that puts our farmers at a disadvantage. This is not a free trade deal for North Carolina." The other North Carolina senator, Thom Til- lis, had told the trade representative in August that a tobacco carveout would set a dangerous prec- edent for future trade deals and could scare away would-be supporters of the deal. "A number of my colleagues share my view that TPP can be a net positive in the long run," Tillis wrote. "I am confident, however, that the path toward ratification will be significantly endan- gered if the administration or one of our trading partners impose their biases by targeting specific industries for exclusion." "The current proposal in TPP creates an en- tirely new precedent," said Tillis. "[It is] a prec- edent that will no doubt become the norm for future trade agreements where the negotiators get to pick the winners and losers and American businesses will suffer as a result. Once we allow an entire sector to be treated unfairly in trade agree- ments, the question is, who's next?" Similar comments have been heard from the US House of Representatives, where 17 Republi- can members of have already said they won't vote to ratify TPP if the tobacco carveout remains a part of it.

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