[Ip-health] WTO secretariat summary of October 2013 TRIPS Council discussions on Ireland and plain packaging

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Oct 21 05:00:54 PDT 2013


Plain packaging for tobacco

The latest debate about compulsory plain packaging — using standard colours
and typefaces instead of brand logos, usually with large health warnings —
for cigarettes and other tobacco products follows an announcement in May
2013 by Ireland that it is considering the requirement among a number of
measures designed to discourage smoking and improve health. (See also
this October
2013 Irish government

The Dominican Republic urged Ireland to withdraw the policy until a legal
challenge against Australia’s plain packaging law is settled in the WTO. It
was supported by Cuba, Honduras, and Nicaragua in repeating its concern
that the move would violate countries’ right to market products using
trademarks and could hurt their producers. Cuba has also referred to
indications <http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/gi_e.htm>.

The EU, which speaks for all its member states, pointed out that Ireland’s
policy has not taken effect yet, and argued that the TRIPS Agreement allows
countries to act to protect public health. Plain packaging is also
recommended in the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on
Tobacco Control, it said. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Norway, and
Uruguay supported the EU.

Plain packaging for tobacco was first discussed in the TRIPS Council and in
the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Committee (which deals with labelling
and general product standards) in June
Since then it has been debated intensively and is now a full-blown legal

The first complaints were about Australia’s bill, which subsequently became
law. A bill in New Zealand and policies announced in the EU and now Ireland
have also been discussed. (See news from the last
follow links to earlier news stories.)

Ukraine launched a legal challenge in March 2012, once the Australian bill
became law. Honduras and Dominican Republic filed their complaints in 2012,
and Cuba and Indonesia in 2013, bringing the total number of cases to five.
It remains to be seen whether the cases will be merged. The only panels set
up so far are for the Ukraine case, with one for Honduras set up on 25
September 2013. However, no panellists have been appointed and therefore
there have been no hearings. (See disputes
, DS435 <http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds435_e.htm>,
DS441 <http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds441_e.htm>,
DS458 <http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds458_e.htm>,
DS467 <http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds467_e.htm>.)

The Irish plan was discussed in this meeting at the request of the
Dominican Republic (under “other business” because the request was received
too late to put on the regular agenda).

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