A pair of North Carolina Senate Republicans said Thursday that targeting tobacco in a sweeping trans-Pacific trade agreement puts congressional approval at risk.
Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr argued that they will work to defeat the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) if tobacco is excluded from protections provided to other agricultural products in the pact.
“By carving out tobacco from the TPP, the president and his administration are discriminating against an entire agricultural commodity, setting a dangerous precedent for future trade agreements,” Tillis said on the Senate floor.
“If any carve-out is ultimately included in the TPP, I will work hard to help defeat its ratification.”
But a U.S. official said that “TPP will not discriminate against any agricultural commodity nor will it exclude tobacco."
"On the contrary, TPP will provide protections to ensure that governments can implement tobacco control measures, while guaranteeing that tobacco has the same legal status as any other product," the official said in an email to The Hill.
Tillis argued that Congress didn't give President Obama the trade promotion authority he needed to move the TPP quickly through Congress on an up-or-down vote for “the freedom to indiscriminately choose when fairness should be applied and when it should be ignored.”
Further, he expressed concern that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman “was dishonest" when he told lawmakers that other countries needed the tobacco exception and there are no serious doubts about that assertion.
The Obama administration has formally proposed tobacco carve-out language in TPP, a move that Tillis called "unacceptable.”
House and Senate pro-trade lawmakers have warned that adding the measure would lead to a loss of critical support for the TPP when a deal reaches Capitol Hill.
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