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Free trade deals delay public health initiative

19 February, 2013

Free trade deals delay public health initiative

The positive health initiative of introducing plain packaging for cigarettes is being undone by the Government’s free trade obsession, Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague said today.

New Zealand will follow Australia and legislate to allow for mandatory plain packaging of tobacco products. The regulations to implement the law will not be activated until the conclusion of cases filed under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules against Australia for its plain packaging regime.

“Plain packaging is a great public health initiative as it stops tobacco companies getting around the law to stop them advertising,” said Mr Hague.

“Their product kills – and the Government should do all it can to stop them ensnaring New Zealanders into this costly and deadly habit.

“The decision to wait until legal cases taken against Australia are concluded is however very disappointing.

“Legislation that could save lives is being postponed because of the risk of New Zealand being sued due to free trade agreements we have signed in the past.”

The Green Party is also concerned about the impact the investor-state dispute procedure proposed in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would have on New Zealand’s ability to protect the health of its citizens. Australia has resisted the investor-state dispute procedure being included during its negotiations on the TPP.

“Big tobacco is using existing trade rules against Australia.” Mr Hague said.

“Signing up to the investor state dispute resolution parts of the TPP will further expose New Zealand to the risk of being sued by multi-national corporations seeking to influence our public health policies.

“The Key Government needs to protect the health of its citizens and should therefore refuse to sign agreements that constrain New Zealand’s right to legislate for the sake of our health and environment.”

ENDS

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