The International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) ahead of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers meeting in Nairobi on 19–20 June today re-iterated its objections to the worrying developments of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).
After the publication of the Directive, some member states in the EU are proposing standardised packaging, which is a development that goes too far and ignores the mandatory checks that the EU has to perform, first with its own Treaty and second with international trade rules, including WTO’s.
ITGA will also remain vigilant about the so-called secondary legislation, which includes a stricter regulation of ingredients, in order to make sure that no extreme measures are taken that could discriminate against tobacco varieties.
TPD is likely to be discussed by the ACP-EU Ministerial Committee of Raw Products, and despite previous assurances by the EU Commission and Parliament that TPD should not lead to a deterioration in the living conditions of people whose livelihoods depend on tobacco growing in Europe, the current proposals will do exactly that.
ITGA President Francois van der Merwe said that this was also a chance to appeal to the Dialogue Groups on agriculture (DG-AGRI) to raise the tobacco producers’ concerns at the sixth Conference of the Parties (COP6) in Moscow later this year. “ITGA calls on the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States Council of Ministers to take this opportunity to remind the EU that the TPD should not become a technical barrier to trade.”
He said that the revised proposals were a declaration of an “out and out war” against the tobacco industry. “These measures actually contradict the so-called ‘public health’ issues they are supposed to support because it will encourage contraband and counterfeit products made from cheap, suspect-quality tobacco that does not meet the health and environmental norms of many countries, and not just the EU.”
Van der Merwe believes that standardisation will have far-reaching negative consequences. “Packet standardisation measures only serve to worsen the already rampant global problem of counterfeiting and piracy of tobacco products.” He stated that it would also trigger a price war between manufacturers as they attempt to distinguish themselves from their competitors – and the major casualty would be the tobacco leaf growers.
“Any reduction in leaf production – which will happen if TPD proposals are pushed through – would have a significant knock-on effect, especially in the developing world,” said Van der Merwe. In Malawi, for example, more than 1.9-million families are employed in the tobacco sector, which means that approximately 70% of the adult population of the country are dependent on leaf tobacco production and the associated activities down the line. Tobacco makes up 53% of Malawi’s exports and 15% of the GDP.
The ITGA strongly condemns current attempts to impose standardisation on tobacco products as blatantly unacceptable discrimination imposed by misguided public health officials within the EU and, unfortunately, some of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States.