Learn more about our policy experts.

Media Contacts

Angela Bradbery, Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7741
c. (202) 503-6768
abradbery@citizen.org, Twitter

Barbara Holzer, Broadcast Manager
w. (202) 588-7716
bholzer@citizen.org

Karilyn Gower, Press Officer
w. (202) 588-7779
kgower@citizen.org

Other Important Links

Press Release Database
Citizen Vox blog
Texas Vox blog
Consumer Law and Policy blog
Energy Vox blog
Eyes on Trade blog
Facebook/publiccitizen

Follow us on Twitter

 

Sept. 15, 2011

November Deadline for Obama’s First Trade Deal Falls Away as Controversies Roil Chicago Trans-Pacific Trade Talks

PDF

American Medical Assoc. Enters Fray Over Inclusion of Tobacco, Alcohol in Deal; Obama Administration Proposal Limiting Access to Medicines Stirs Fury

CHICAGO – A range of controversies, mostly on health issues, has emerged at negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Chicago this week, such that the vaunted deadline to complete the deal – the November Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hawaii – will not be met. And after this eighth round of negotiations, troubling signs are emerging that the Obama administration’s first trade deal could roll back initial reforms made on affordable access to medicines made during the last round of George W. Bush-era trade deals, Public Citizen said today.

“While the administration keeps touting this potential first Obama trade pact as a new 21st century model, and instead of implementing the many specific trade reforms President Obama pledged as a candidate to avoid more job loss and ensure import safety, it appears the administration is pushing for something like NAFTA on steroids with Vietnam and Malaysia,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Growing controversy over the trade deal’s threats to domestic regulation of cigarettes and alcohol escalated when the American Medical Association (AMA) made its first foray into the trade debate, sending a letter on Sept. 8 to U.S. negotiators demanding that tobacco and alcohol be excluded from the pact (http://bit.ly/reyhST). The AMA and other public health groups (http://bit.ly/p0a5uC; http://bit.ly/qKHd1g) intensified their focus on trade talks after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled recently that the U.S. ban on clove, cola and candy-flavored cigarettes in the 2009 legislation to combat youth smoking violated WTO requirements, and ordered the policy changed (http://bit.ly/qAz2it). This followed an attack by tobacco giant Philip Morris Asia against Australia’s proposed cigarette “plain packaging” rules using an international commercial agreement (http://bit.ly/q5zANK) that follows on a similar assault by a Swiss Philip Morris unit on a similar Uruguayan law initiated last year (http://bit.ly/pnOqC0). Both attacks use the “investor-state” private enforcement system the Obama administration is pushing for in the Trans-Pacific pact.

Meanwhile, various countries and U.S. health, consumer and development groups reacted with ire as the Obama administration sought to distract attention from a proposal it was submitting earlier this week to roll back Bush-era 2007 improvements for affordable medicines access by expanding trade pact patent rules. While the U.S. proposal was being submitted behind closed doors, a paper was released publicly announcing a U.S. “Trade Enhancing Access to Medicines (TEAM) initiative” that was advertised as revealing a new policy to increase access to medicines for consumers. In fact, this initiative simply repackaged many of the most problematic aspects of the long-standing, retrograde U.S. position on trade patent rules that restrict medicinal access (http://bit.ly/oV99lJ).

“It is insulting that the Obama administration released this paper on ‘access to medicines’ on the same day that it put forth its most controversial and access-restricting provisions at the Trans-Pacific FTA negotiations,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program. “The U.S. intellectual property proposal rolls back even some of the few protections for access to medicines in the Bush-negotiated trade pacts. The administration is heading rapidly in the wrong direction, at the expense of global public health.”

The Obama administration’s attempts to roll back the “May 2007” reforms of trade pact patent rules relating to medicine access, its insistence over objections by Australia and other countries that private corporate “investor-state” enforcement be included, and its rejection of exclusions for any product from the deal is likely to add more dead weight to its efforts to pass pending Bush-negotiated trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. These deals were signed in 2007. After months of insisting votes would happen “within weeks,” it is increasingly likely that Congress could consider the deals in October. These three trade deals contain the same foreign investor rights and private enforcement used by Philip Morris to attack tobacco regulation in other countries.

“Obama folks always say that there just was not much they could do to fix the Bush-negotiated Korea, Colombia and Panama deals, but that when the new administration negotiated its own trade pacts, it would do them differently,” Wallach said. “Well, now they’re negotiating their own trade deal, and it’s looking like a Bush NAFTA-style deal in key respects – and even worse in some areas – and that only builds even more opposition to Obama’s call to pass Bush’s  old deals.”

Trans-Pacific FTA negotiations currently include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. The next round of Trans-Pacific FTA negotiations will be held next month in Lima, Peru. No high-level negotiations will take place at the APEC summit in Hawaii in November.

###

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.

Copyright © 2014 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.

 

To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.