This time from the Washington Post. I have some quibbles with it.
What to do, however, when free trade and tobacco control seem to be in tension?
I'm not sure how "free trade" and "tobacco control" are in tension. It may be true that some trade agreement provisions are in tension with tobacco control, but I think it's pretty clear that today's trade agreements go beyond free trade. It's the provisions that go beyond free trade that lead to the tension. So, perhaps some parts of trade agreements are in tension with tobacco control, but free trade is not.
They also argue for the earlier version of the USTR tobacco proposal:
Initially, the Obama administration favored a TPP provision exempting individual nations’ tobacco regulations — such as those banning advertising or requiring warning labels — from legal attack as “non-tariff barriers” to the free flow of goods. The idea was that, when it comes to controlling a uniquely dangerous product, there’s no such thing as “protectionism.”
That's not my impression of what this USTR proposal (see the link) would have done, although there was some uncertainty about its scope. I don't think it would have been a full carve-out.
They seem to like Tom Bollyky's approach to the issue:
Tom Bollyky of the Council on Foreign Relations suggests that the office of the trade representative could formally reassure U.S. businesses that supporting tobacco control in the TPP cannot serve as precedent under other circumstances. It could also make an exemption from legal challenge for tobacco-control measures applicable only to those measures that treat domestic and imported products equally. ...
So, no exemption from national treatment provisions, but exemption from other provisions.
I find parts of this argument perplexing. If I understand it correctly, the argument is that certain trade agreement provisions (IP, fair and equitable treatment, etc.) may interfere with domestic regulation, including public health regulation in general and public health regulation related to tobacco in particular. Therefore, the argument goes, we need to exclude tobacco from these provisions.
But if these provisions are such a problem for all of this domestic regulation, why just exclude tobacco? Why not deal with the more fundemental problems with these rules?
Finally, there's the "tobacco is unique" point:
Tobacco sickens and, eventually, can kill if consumed as intended. ... Tobacco is unique, and everyone knows it.
Is tobacco really that unique? Aren't there lots of products like this? When I walk around the grocery store/pharmacy, I see plenty of them.
Feel free to argue with me in the comments about this, or come by our Cato TPP event on Friday -- where I'll bring all this up -- and yell at me in person!