Day 2 of MOP3 had a much different feel compared to day 1. Both Committees A and B progressed slow and to a halt, while we still have so much to get through. We made such little progress today that we’re starting tomorrow pretty much the same way we started today, particularly in Committee A. We all witnessed the frustrating impact of time spent discussing issues with no productive outcomes. Today was very instructive on how tomorrow should not be conducted.
Remarkably, we did witness however, Parties of the AMRO and AFRO region coming together as part of an initiative to address tobacco industry interference in sessions of the MOP - initially proposed by Ecuador at the pre-MOP3 preparatory regional meeting. Through this initiative, Parties took strong and visible action to implement measures to increase the transparency of Parties’ delegations to the MOP, as agreed upon at MOP1 and in-line with FCTC Article 5.3 and its guidelines.
We have a big day ahead tomorrow with many agenda items to get through that will require Parties’ attention and considered decision-making. Parties still need to reach an agreement on decisions pertaining to the Panama Declaration, the road map timelines and steps to conduct evidence-based research on articles 6.5 and 13.2, improvements to the reporting system of the Protocol, Rule of Procedure and the Budget and the workplan and budget for the upcoming biennium. The remaining time left for MOP3 will be needed for constructive and productive discussion, not lengthy discussions and wordsmithing decisions to no end.
We urge Parties to work together collaboratively to find solutions and come to agreement to ensure we adopt the remaining items and decisions or we will not finish the business we came here to achieve.
Application of Part III of the Protocol and Art. 15.6 of the FCTC
Effective tobacco product supply chain control is a crucial strategy to protect public health, as proposed by Part III of the Protocol. Supply chain control involves monitoring every stage of tobacco production. We ask the Parties to give greater attention to production and marketing of the raw materials for tobacco product manufacturing, including tobacco leaves, cigarette papers and filters, among others.
This control is essential. Evidence shows that several actions are possible in this regard, including identifying the origin of tobacco leaves and tracing the path of cigarette paper used in contraband products. These actions are particularly important to prevent smuggling and counterfeiting of tobacco products - illegal practices which are detrimental to Parties’ tax revenues and which also compromise public health efforts by facilitating unregulated access to these products. Illicit tobacco trade is both a cause of many related crimes, and a consequence of other criminal activities that need to be addressed.
The Parties must keep in mind that the mere ratification of the Framework Convention (FCTC) implies that they must apply measures to eliminate smuggling as indicated in Art. 15.6 of the FCTC, which clearly establishes the obligations to combat illicit trade in tobacco products
Similarly, it is necessary for Parties to the FCTC to sign Information Exchange Agreements, because generally the constitutional principle of secrecy of actions by tax administrations governs in all countries. The Protocol is the primary instrument that constitutes a solution to the various problems that exist, as it equips Parties with the necessary tools to progress and avoid attacks by the tobacco industry.
Controlling the tobacco product supply chain is not just a strategy, but an imperative in the fight against the tobacco epidemic. By addressing the production, distribution and marketing of these products, public health is protected, costs associated with diseases associated with tobacco use are reduced, and progress is made towards a healthier and more sustainable future.
The Parties must keep in mind that the mere ratification of the Framework Convention (FCTC) implies that they must apply measures to eliminate smuggling as indicated in Art. 15.6 of the FCTC, which clearly establishes the obligations to combat illicit trade in tobacco products, despite not having yet adhered to the Protocol.
Jorge Gaona (LDT Paraguay). Colaboración de Alejandro Ramos y Diego Rodríguez
Treaty 5 Year Anniversary: Where are we at and the future of MOP
At the start of the negotiations of the Protocol in February 2008, we were very hopeful. The global scope and multifaceted nature of the illicit tobacco trade problem required a coordinated international response. Negotiations have begun on the basis of a template developed by a WHO expert working group. This contains a comprehensive set of supply control measures to tackle the illicit trade, such as tracking and tracing, licensing, due diligence etcetera. We got all this, and much more. The Protocol is based on three pillars: preventing illicit trade, law enforcement and international cooperation. The new treaty was adopted in November 2012 and entered into force in September 2018. So far, 68 parties ratified the Protocol. Progress was made, but a big concern remained: implementation. The most important obligation in the treaty is the tracking and tracing system for tobacco products and only half of the Parties have such a system so far, often incomplete and not in line with the obligations of the Protocol. Few Parties reported having in place requirements for the licensing of manufacturing equipment, despite these being mandatory requirements under the Protocol. In relation to due diligence, only a third of the Parties reported requiring that due diligence be conducted for all natural and legal persons engaged in the supply chain of tobacco. And what about the future of the MOP? This future might be defined in the themes for the Meeting: More Parties, Greater Traceability and Less Illicit Trade. It would be nice if we would have more than 68 Parties, but it would be even nicer if the existing 68 Parties implement the Protocol. Without a substantial increase of the budget for technical and financial assistance to low and lower-middle-income countries is it very unlikely that we will achieve higher implementation rates. We would welcome less illicit trade, but we don’t know whether the existing measures have really been implemented. It would be nice to have greater traceability, but it would be even nicer if we knew whether the existing systems really work. The EU’s tobacco products traceability system, for instance, has been operational for almost 5 years, but we have no idea whether it is really efficient or reduces illicit trade, because there is no report on its effectiveness. More research is needed in several areas, such as on the role of free zones on illicit tobacco trade or the rise of illicit manufacturing. Research on key inputs or duty-free sales might be commissioned, but funding for this research will come from extra-budgetary funds and is, as such, not secured. Let’s not forget the elephant in the room. Big Tobacco is not absent in this debate and always eager to increase its impact on governments in their fight against illicit trade. On the future of the MOP, we like the themes of the meeting, but we would like to suggest some new ones: more technical assistance, more implementation, more research and less tobacco industry interference.