Minister: TPP won’t encourage vaping, tobacco use

The use of tobacco or vaping (e-cigarette) products will not increase as a result of TPP because measures that control the industry will remain, assured Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
The use of tobacco or vaping (e-cigarette) products will not increase as a result of TPP because measures that control the industry will remain, assured Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will not lead to a rise in the use of tobacco or vaping (e-cigarette) products as measures to control the industry will remain, Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said today.

He pointed out that Malaysia had led the fight on tobacco matters in TPP talks, but said it was not possible to get all the desired terms included in the free-trade deal discussed by 12 nations, as there was a need to compromise of some issues.

“But in our view, that doesn’t mean TPP will result in proliferation of tobacco or vaping. In our view, policies including the country’s policy will ensure tobacco control policies will be in place,” he said at a public dialogue on the free trade agreement today.

“As I said, we cannot possibly accommodate every single request, every issue we tried our best, we did our best, we didn’t get what we wanted but what we got was only a carve out for ISDS,” he said, referring to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism that allows for a foreign company to sue the government of a country where it is investing in.

Under the TPP, a signatory country may choose to deny claims through the ISDS mechanism against the country’s tobacco control measures.

Mustapa was responding to a member of the audience who expressed dissatisfaction with the TPP’s terms on the tobacco industry and criticised the alleged priority given to the trade over the health of citizens in member states.

Attention is also currently on vaping here, following the Health Ministry’s crackdown on the industry as well as the Johor Sultan’s decree banning such outlets in his state over possible health concerns with use of the products.

On November 18, the MITI defended the TPP’s final text, extolling that it was the first time where tobacco was given exceptional treatment in multilateral trade agreements.

It said then that the regulation of tobacco use cannot be solely determined by the TPP and must include measures by other agencies that are consistent with the trade agreement and others like it.

In August 2012, Malaysia tabled the tobacco carve-out proposal during the Brunei Darussalam leg of the negotiations to allow countries participating in the TPP to maintain full control over marketing, advertising, banning or taxing tobacco products, while also protecting them from multi-billion dollar lawsuits by tobacco firms.

Reports in December 2013 however claimed that Malaysia had “softened” its stance on the tobacco deal in the talks then by submitting a “revised proposal” that dropped prohibitions on tariff reductions.

On October 5, Malaysia together with US, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam concluded negotiations on the TPP.

These 12 nations have yet to sign and ratify the TPP, which among other things reduces the import duties for agreed products among member countries.

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