The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Pacific trade deal: US attorneys back Malaysia’s proposed ‘carve out'

By Chris Bostic

Deputy Director of Policy, ASH (US)

On 27 January, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a letter to United States Trade Representative Michael Froman requesting that tobacco products be exempted from all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) now being negotiated.

The letter is direct and well-reasoned, but perhaps the most exciting aspect is the number of signatures – 45 individual attorneys general.

Attorneys general are the chief legal officer in each state or territory in the US. Among their responsibilities is to defend laws against legal attacks. No group of people is more aware of the danger posed by trade agreements to tobacco control legislation and regulation.

While a number of national organizations have written to the Obama administration voicing their concern about trade and investment agreements’ impact on tobacco control, the NAAG letter is important for several reasons. First, it represents a powerful group of people, one difficult to ignore. Second, it demonstrates bipartisan agreement (party affiliation among AGs is split nearly equally), an increasingly rare occurrence in US. politics. Third, it is very direct about the problem and the solution.

Finally, the letter voices direct support for Malaysia’s carve-out proposal in the negotiations:

“Based on the history to date with respect to such challenges to regulatory authority, we believe that the only way to avoid the damage to public health posed by a multilateral agreement like the TPP is to carve tobacco out of the agreement entirely, as the Government of Malaysia and others have proposed.”

The TPPA is being negotiated among 12 countries bordering the Pacific. When completed, it will be the biggest regional trading bloc in the world, and other countries are expected to join.

There has been no public response to the letter from Ambassador Froman or the White House, but the NAAG initiative further isolates the administration on this issue. A growing coalition of public health groups, state and federal politicians and academics are united in their efforts to remove this threat from the TPP and all trade and investment agreements.


FCA's previous article on why this  matters for global tobacco control.

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