New WTO challenge to Australia plain-packaging tobacco law

A battle against Australia's plain tobacco packaging rules gained pace at the World Trade Organization on Wednesday, as Indonesia won the right to seek a ruling by the global body.

Trade sources said that the WTO's disputes settlement body had agreed to set up an independent panel of trade and legal experts in order to assess whether Australia is breaching the rules of global commerce.

Canberra has faced a raft of challenges to its tobacco legislation, passed in 2011 and in force since December 2012, which politicians hope will curb the numbers of people smoking.

Under the rules, all tobacco products have to be sold in drab green boxes, use the same typeface and contain graphic images of diseased smokers.

Indonesia, which exports more than $670 million (485 million euro) worth of tobacco a year, is the fifth country to take Australia to the WTO, after cases brought last year by Ukraine, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

The Latin American trio, who are all cigar-producers, have cited concerns that the legislation covers all , not just cigarettes.

All four countries argue that Australia's law breaches international trade rules and the of brands—arguments rejected by the government and which also failed to convince Australia's High Court in a case brought by tobacco firms.

The Geneva-based WTO ensures that its 159 members respect the rules of global commerce. Its dispute settlement process can last for years, amid appeals, counter-appeals and assessments of compliance.

If its settlement body finds against Australia, the WTO has the power to authorise retaliatory measures.

Expert panels have already been given permission to hear the Ukrainian and Honduran cases, although Cuba has not moved beyond filing an initial complaint, and the Dominican Republic still needs to make a second request for a panel hearing.

This was Indonesia's first request for a hearing in the dispute, and Australia would have been able to block its move under WTO rules.

Observers said the fact Australia did not force Indonesia to lodge a second, unblockable request was a sign that Canberra wanted a ruling as soon as possible.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Australia defiant on WTO cigarette challenge

May 25, 2012

Australia said Friday it would "vigorously defend" itself against complaints about its plan for plain cigarette packaging made by Honduras and Ukraine to the World Trade Organisation.

EU also studying plain-packaging law for tobacco

Aug 16, 2012

The European Commission said on Thursday it too could shortly make legislative proposals that would force manufacturers to distribute tobacco products across Europe in plain packaging.

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

Oct 24, 2014

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

Oct 24, 2014

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

Oct 24, 2014

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments