INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller expressed his relief Monday when he learned a proposed international trade agreement prohibits tobacco companies from abusing arbitration procedures.
Negotiators from the United States have concluded their work finalizing the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPP is a proposed trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other nations concerning the trade of many products. In its original version, it could have included tobacco products.
Last year, many state attorneys general expressed concern that the provision would give an unfair advantage to tobacco companies.
“Tobacco companies knowingly manufacture products that when used as directed cause cancer, emphysema, heart attack and death,” Zoeller said in a statement. “State attorneys general fought to ensure tobacco companies pay what they owe for the healthcare costs of cigarette smoking.”
Zoeller serves on a 28-member federal committee that advises the United States Trade Representative on international trade issues that affect state and local governments.
In May, Zoeller was appointed by the United States Trade Representative to serve as the representative of the National Association of Attorneys General, on the advisory panel.
“Vigorous international trade allows Indiana’s products to be sold overseas and the TPP, if approved, would offer a mechanism for other types of companies and nations to resolve any trade disputes,” Zoeller said.. “But tobacco companies whose products are a unique threat to public health should be excluded from that process.”
Tobacco companies were asked to be carved out of the TPP treaty due to previous abuses and disputes to challenge antismoking laws and tie up states and national governments in protracted legal actions.
If the TPP is ultimately ratified by the U.S. and other nations, tobacco companies will not be able to use the agreement to challenge state or local tobacco regulations in arbitrations, particularly in developing countries.
“It would be a huge step backward if tobacco companies were able to exploit the process for working out trade disputes in order to thwart each nation’s tobacco laws,” Zoeller said. “I am grateful to Ambassador Michael Froman and the USTR office for listening to state attorneys general and correcting this.”
He said he hopes to have the support from Indiana’s members of Congress and urges other state attorneys generals to convey the same message to their states’ congressional delegations.
The final form of the TPP agreement moves to Congress. Members are expected to consider next year whether or not to ratify it and make it binding on the United States.
“This is a victory for public health,” Zoeller said.
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Correction: This story has been updated from its original version to more accurately reflect the scope of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. TheStatehouseFile.com regrets the error.