Tobacco Asia

Volume 18, Number 1

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62 tobaccoasia Make no mistake, this is huge. The Sydney Morning Herald said it "is shaping up to become the biggest trade dispute Australia has ever faced as a defen- dant ... it has the potential to overturn the anti- smoking law". They were talking about various legal action taken against the Australian government over its plain packaging law. One such dispute is at the World Trade Organization (WTO), brought by five countries – Ukraine, Honduras, The Domini- can Republic, Cuba and Indonesia. Another is the international arbitration initiated by Philip Morris Asia (PMA) under the Hong Kong-Australia Bilat- eral Investment Treaty (BIT), which, as we went to print, was due for its latest hearing in Singapore on February 20. The Australian government views these ac- tions so seriously it has taken the unprecedented step of setting up a special branch-level taskforce to handle them. PMA, a Hong Kong corporation that owns and controls Philip Morris in Australia, had already previously notified the Australian government it would take legal steps if tobacco plain packaging rules were enacted. This it did on the same day that legislation was passed in November 2011. By Mike Phillips Plain Talking Next Round in the Plain Packaging Dispute The legislation states that all tobacco prod- ucts sold in Australia must have removed logos, colors, designs and other differentiating elements of branding, as well as trademarks, other than the product name. The government mandated that products sold by every tobacco company must use the same color and typeface, and comply with many other homogenizing rules that essentially eliminate packaging design. Cigarette packaging must also carry larger graphic health warnings on the pack, occupying 90% of the front and 75% of the back. PMA alleges that these new rules go against the Hong Kong-Australia BIT signed in 1993 to "create favorable conditions for greater invest- ment" and to "promote economic cooperation" by protecting cross-border investments between the two countries. The BIT treaties are designed "Does anybody actually know whether plain packaging will cut smoking rates?"

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