The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Groups oppose Philip Morris trade lobbying

TransPacific Partnership 240212 c Natsuki SakaiAFLOJapanese farmers protest the TransPacific Partnership (c) Natsuki SakaiAFLOUS-based tobacco control advocates have blown the whistle on sponsorship by tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) of a lobbying event for an international trade deal in Washington, DC on Friday.

The US$1,200-$1,500 per plate event is a chance for corporate executives to lobby on the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement being negotiated between the United States and eight other Pacific Rim countries.

The tobacco industry is lobbying for its products to be included in the agreement.

However, PMI's partial sponsorship of Friday's event violates US laws as well as provisions in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which the United States signed in 2004.

"This is precisely the sort of back-room deal making that the FCTC was intended to stop," said Laurent Huber, Director of Action on Smoking and Health (US). "There is an inherent conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public policy. Their goals are diametrically opposed to the goals of public health."

Matthew Myers, President of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, urged government officials "not to attend this tobacco industry-sponsored reception and to negotiate a trade agreement that protects public health, not the tobacco industry".

Huber pointed out that governments around the world, including the US, recently agreed through a United Nations process to exclude the tobacco industry in policy discussions. "This is specifically stated in the Political Declaration adopted by the United Nations Summit on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) held in 2011."

Tobacco is the leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases.

SEATCA appeals to Obama

In a related move, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) sent letters to US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging them to exclude tobacco from the TPP.

"We are very concerned that through the TPP, transnational corporations can undo or threaten our governments to roll back what we have accomplished," says the letter.

"We believe it is not enough to have free and fair trade, safe trade should be a primary consideration and the tobacco business whose product poses a health risk is certainly not safe," it adds.

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