Australia prepares to defend plain packaging
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Australia prepares to defend plain packaging

The Australian government has promised to defend the country’s new law on plain packaging for tobacco products against attacks at the World Trade Organisation

Last week the Ukraine filed a request for consultations with Australia, claiming the introduction of plain packaging laws was inconsistent with Australia’s obligations under the TRIPs Agreement. The request is the first step in a legal dispute at the trade body.

A spokesman from Australia’s Permanent Mission to the WTO told Managing IP by email that Australia will participate in the consultations with Ukraine in a constructive manner but that it is prepared to defend any challenge that might result from them.

A number of other members of the TRIPs Council have previously expressed their concern about the impact of Australia’s new law on the sale of tobacco products and the rights of IP owners to distinguish their brands. They include Mexico, Nigeria, Cuba, Honduras and Zimbabwe. But to date none have notified the WTO of their intent to join the dispute.

The Australian government spokesman said that Australia is pursuing tobacco plain packaging as a public health measure and is confident that these measures are consistent with Australia’s WTO obligations. He added that a number of countries have expressed support for its right to take legitimate public health measures, both in the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade and the TRIPS Council.

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