LANGUAGE

Australia - Tobacco Plain Packaging

In 2012 and 2013, Honduras, Indonesia, Cuba and Dominican Republic brought complaints in the World Trade Organization (WTO) claiming that Australia's tobacco plain packaging laws breached the WTO agreements. The complaining countries argued that Australia’s law breached the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) by failing to provide required protections to trademarks rights and because it is an unjustifiable encumbrance on the use of tobacco trademarks; and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) because it is more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfill a legitimate objective.

This long anticipated ruling by the WTO rejected all grounds of complaint against Australia's plain packaging laws in a 900 page ruling. The panel's authoritative ruling should be powerful in persauding governments to move forward with tobacco plain packaging and can be used to resist many of the flawed arguments the tobacco industry puts forward to oppose the policy. The WTO considered extensive evidence from Australia and the complaining countries and found the evidence demonstrates tobacco plain packaging works to reduce tobacco use. The panel re-affirmed that states have the right to regulate for public health under WTO law and the policy does not interfere with international trademark rights. The panel made strong findings of fact which undermine many of the other arguments that the tobacco industry tries to use to oppose plain packaging laws. These are detailed in the briefing document that can be downloaded under the 'additional documents' tag.