In 1981, three US tobacco companies founded a lobbying association to increase their exports to southeast Asia.[1] They faced resistance mainly from Thailand, where at the time only the the state monopoly could sell cigarettes. The US companies mobilised the trade representative of the Bush administration as well as influential senators to menace Thailand with trade sanctions. In 1989, the dispute was referred to a settlement body of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The Thai government defended their import ban on cigarettes based on the Article XX(b) of the GATT agreement allowing for the restriction of international trade, if “measures to protect life and health” require to do so. The panel contradicted the view that imports would increase cigarette consumption and judged in favour of the US companies. Since then, Marlboro producer Philip Morris has been boosting its market share in Thailand to more than 20 percent.[2]

Further information:

“Trade policy, not morals or health policy”: the US Trade Representative, tobacco companies and market liberalization in Thailand (2012)