Congresswoman Renee Ellmers released the following statement from her office in Washington this afternoon:
"Tobacco farmers deserve the same recognition and consideration as any other legal agricultural commodity. In any discussion of trade partnerships going forward, this administration must not subject an entire industry to bias and prejudicial treatment when their economic well being depends on the progress of these discussions. President Obama is once again showing his ideological intolerance and penchant for centralized control by alienating a vital source of livelihood in my state, and I will not stand idly by and allow this to happen. "
The Obama Administration has announced its intention to proceed with tariff elimination for many products but, for its own reasons seems to be reluctant to include tobacco products in its efforts to forge a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. There is concern that the Administration is rushing to propose the creation of a tobacco safe harbor with the potential to impose regulatory barriers without insisting on safeguards that have been standard for 65 years -- e.g., requirements that regulatory measures not be applied in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner and not constitute disguised restrictions on international trade -- safeguards that mirror requirements of U.S. administrative law.
Furthermore, the process for vetting the Administration's proposal with all the relevant stakeholders has been secretive and hurried unnecessarily. The proposed language has only very recently been issued to a select number of cleared advisors and congressional offices and there is concern that the Administration intends to table this proposal in the Dallas round of the TPP negotiations, which commenced on May 8th.