AMA Calls for Trade Agreements to Exclude Alcohol and Tobacco

The American Medical Association is calling for alcohol and tobacco to be excluded in all new U.S. trade agreements. New Zealand’s NZWeek, at the start of the next round of negotiations in Chicago on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, reported that the AMA’s executive vice president wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk saying that TPP and all other trade agreements should exclude those products in the interests of public health.

The AMA’s James L. Madara said in the letter:

“Removing trade barriers may be a desirable objective when the products being traded are beneficial, but tobacco is not a beneficial product. Cigarettes are the only legally available consumer product that kills through its intended normal use.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a regional trade agreement currently being negotiated among the United States and eight other negotiating partners:  Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. They hope to agree on the outlines of an agreement to coincide with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ meeting in Honolulu in November.

In its letter, the AMA noted its organization’s policy that –

“international trade agreements recognize that health and public health concerns take priority over commercial interests, and that trade negotiations be conducted in a transparent manner and with full attention to health concerns and participation by the public health community.”

Effectively, if alcohol and tobacco weren’t included in trade agreements that would mean no tariff reductions on those products and no protection of their trademarks.  In addition, those manufacturers would lose the ability to sue under enforcement powers of trade agreements.