Tobacco snuffed out in TPPA

KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 18, 2013): In a victory for the anti-tobacco lobby, Malaysia has decided to remove tobacco from the list of goods that can be brought into the country under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the "carve-out" is the best way to manage tobacco in the agreement.

He said it is up to the Malaysian team to be involved in negotiations in Brunei to present its case for the "carve-out".

Stating that the Health Ministry had officially made a proposal earlier to carve out tobacco, Subramaniam added that it is an issue that all countries should agree on.

"I believe that all the countries should agree on the carve-out because a trade liberalisation protocol cannot include tobacco.

"I don't think any country by virtue of its policies allows for liberalisation of (tobacco-related) trade. We have restrictions for the use of tobacco (at the moment)," he said.

The ministry's decision comes on the heels of efforts by the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) to persuade the government to exclude tobacco from the TPPA.

Last week, MCTC sent a letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak pointing out that Malaysia would be contradicting the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) if it also signed the TPPA.

It is inconceivable that Malaysia would be a signatory to both agreements as the respective obligations on the nation were poles apart, MCTC president Dr Molly Cheah said.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr N.K.S Tharmaseelan had said that tobacco is the only product that kills half its users prematurely and causes numerous life-threatening diseases and reduces productivity.

There is simply no justification for tobacco to enjoy the privileges of free trade as provided for under TPPA, he said.

The government has come under fire from NGOs for alleged lack of transparency in the manner in which TPPA negotiations had been conducted.