The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), had recently been exposed by The New York Times and global tobacco control groups for efforts to interfere with life-saving tobacco control measures in countries worldwide, including the Philippines.
A series of articles published by The New York Times and a report done by global tobacco control groups entitled Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco revealed attempts of the US Chamber and its global network of AmCham affiliates to oppose tobacco control policies in the Philippines, Uruguay, Burkina Faso, Moldova, and the European Union.
The U.S. Chamber is a private trade association with 116 affiliates in 103 countries, including the Philippines, and offices in Belgium, Brazil, Ghana, Korea, and Turkey. Though it is not a US government agency, it is often mistaken as representing its interests. It is perceived to be the spokesperson of the business community in the U.S. and around the world, and disregarding its position on issues and requests may be seen as a threat to a country’s economic stability and growth.
According to the report, “The U.S. Chamber and the AmCham in the Philippines aggressively fought an effort by legislators to reduce tobacco consumption by raising taxes on cigarettes”. The report also reiterated the U.S. Chamber and the US-ASEAN Business Council‘s position on raising taxes on cigarettes: “[It would] undermine the government’s revenue growth targets and subsequently pose serious threat to national security.” The same report stated that in mid-2012, prior to the passage of the Sin Tax Law, the U.S. Chamber echoed the argument the tobacco industry had against raising taxes on cigarettes. In a letter to the Finance Secretary of the Philippines, the U.S. Chamber wrote: “Exorbitant tax increases on tobacco products will stimulate persistent and corrosive growth in smuggling and other illicit trades, which only fuels organized criminal activity and its consequences.”
Opposing increases in tobacco tax is one of the strategies of the tobacco industry to fight the most effective measure to reduce tobacco consumption. AmCham has been partnering with the tobacco industry for years. Philip Morris International has provided a total of 4,520,121 USD to the American Chamber Foundation Philippines Inc., from 2011 – 2013 for its so-called corporate social responsibility activities.
Atty. Irene Reyes, Managing Director of HealthJustice said, “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates are actively working to dismantle tobacco control measures in the Philippines as well as in many places overseas. The hugely influential trade group’s partnership with the giants of the tobacco industry is something to watch and be vigilant against.”