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To review. Big tobacco companies are using international trade agreements to sue governments over policy that might reduce their profit.
Oliver sights how tobacco giant Phillip Morris dug up a 1993 trade agreement with Hong Kong to sue to Australian government over plain packaging legislation.
Philip Morris lost the case, but they then turned their attention to Uruguay.
The government introduced images of the impact of smoking on the packaging of cigarettes. Philip Morris subsequently launched legal proceedings against the government, because it works to reduce the rate of smoking as Oliver points out in the influential medical journal The Lancet;
The policy has been very popular in Uruguay.
Phillip Morris continues to pursue their legal action against Uruguay. The scary aspect of this whole thing though is that it provides a clear example of what we could face in New Zealand from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement or TPPA, and the ISDS clauses that give corporations the power to prosecute if government policy hurts their profits.
Jane Kelsey, Proffessor at the University of Auckland, pointed out the dangers of ISDS clauses in her piece; Leak shows trade deal may prove tricky:
"The draft environment chapter confirms expectations that the TPPA's "gold standard" is for the corporations, not to protect people and the planet. Environment chapters are used as fig leaves to deflect criticisms of other chapters that confer legal rights on foreign corporations that can seriously harm the environment. In the investment chapter, these rights are enforceable through the notorious investor-state dispute settlement processes. Most investor-state disputes involve government measures to regulate natural resources or protect the environment or public health.
The leak also provides insights into the negotiating process and how ministers are trying to break the deadlock in key chapters. Asking one country, in this case the Canadian chair of the environment working group, to prepare a new text "on their own responsibility" is a controversial strategy used at the World Trade Organisation to isolate countries that are holding outlier positions."
John Oliver really sums up the absurdity of the situation.