There is no question that increasing a nation's wealth through trade liberalization accelerates all aspects of society's advances. However, the recent announcement of including tobacco & alcohol within the Pacific circle of trade partnerships must be scanned with caution. There is global resistance to inclusion of tobacco in such agreements and includes GATS, GATT, and other protuberances of the WTO (World Trade Organization); all for the genuine reason: It is a deadly commodity with measurable ramifications that our country will surely regret cuddling. The World Health Organization in its consciousness of the industry has established the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which may offer "some defense" against the odds of breaching these international agreements which are usually covert and unfair to a state whose policies are deemed to protect the health of its citizens. This, however, stands less tall in the face of trade giants and their hunger for commercial gains.
Solomon Islands must understand that the 2 top risk factors for the global burden of diseases are tobacco & alcohol consumption, followed closely by diet and sexual behaviour. If Solomon Islands must include these products esp Tobacco in its negotiation with our Pacific brothers then I can only advise on two areas. One is to consult all interested stakeholders in such agreement before conclusion and it must be as transparent as much as it should be. Secondly, our tobacco control strategies must be allowed to develop and implemented for the best interest of the country. We need to stocktake on our respective lengths of progress in our national tobacco control programs and weigh them carefully with the "benefits" from trading them freely within the Pacific.
I have strong interest for economic advancement but not at the peril of our population we wish to raise the welfare of. Iam sure there are scores of intelligentsia in our country who could decide better and for our betterment, so let there be Wisdom for men.
Tobacco & Alcohol in Trade Agreement
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of Michael Vavala and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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