A heavy travel schedule has limited my blogging of late, so I have some catching up to do in terms of recent stories.
A story from last week on Inside Trade noted that USTR will hold off from proposing a tobacco specific exception at the Auckland round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. The article suggests that anti-tobacco activists are disappointed with this. Without doubt, that is true of some in the public health community. It is worth noting, however, that not everyone in the tobacco control community is thrilled with the idea of a tobacco specific exception.
At the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (held the week before last) a number of people I spoke with in the sidelines expressed concern about the signal such an exception sends. The concern is that creating a tobacco specific exception suggests that existing rules do not leave sufficient scope for states to implement tobacco control measures (hence the need for a change). This signal would also be sent at a time when investment treaty claims against Australia and Uruguay, and WTO claims against Australia are on foot.
Having not seen the actual text of the proposal, I remain agnostic about its merits. To be clear, I certainly am not in the camp advocating that an unseen text be tabled. My earlier observations can be found here, here, and here (among other posts). It seems worth adding that the proposal appears more responsive to the outcome of US – Clove Cigarettes and preserving the regulatory powers of the FDA than to contemporary developments, such as ongoing claims against Australia and Uruguay. This raises the additional questions of which other TPP countries might embrace the tobacco specific exception, which might oppose it and how this affects the question of whether a proposal will be tabled.