The Significance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Tobacco Exception
April 12, 2016
In early February, after years of negotiations, the United States and 11 partner nations signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping free-trade agreement. With the fight for congressional approval of the agreement looming—amid a larger debate over free trade in a populist election cycle—it is easy to overlook an innovative and significant TPP provision on tobacco. Of great interest to public health organizations and industry alike, and the result of years of advocacy and careful negotiation, TPP’s tobacco exception adds a subtle but historic wrinkle to the complex rules of international investment. Built on the unique global consensus against tobacco, the exception puts daylight between the interests of the tobacco industry and those of the private sector more generally. The design of the exception, which applies to manufactured tobacco products but not leaf tobacco, should disaggregate corporate and agricultural lobbying interests within tobacco as well. Should TPP be approved, the exception will set a powerful precedent for future trade agreements.