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Plain pack opponents make their case in TRIPs

Opponents of plain packaging have gone at the offensive at the WTO, urging countries considering tobacco plain packaging laws to wait until a decision has been taken in a dispute relating to Australia’s rules

At a meeting of the TRIPs Council in Geneva last week, the five counties that have filed complaints against Australia’s ground-breaking plain packaging laws – Ukraine, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Indonesia, supported by Zimbabwe and Nicaragua – claimed that the law has not cut smoking levels in the country.

Ukraine said that Australia’s measure had not worked and was unlikely to work, and referred to the bill now before New Zealand’s parliament as well as reported plans for similar rules in Ireland, the UK, France and Finland. Support for plain packaging during the meeting came from New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Uruguay, the WHO and the EU.

Although the five complainants have urged other countries to delay their own plain packaging plans until the case against Australia is concluded, that is likely to take longer than originally envisaged.

Last month the chairperson of the panel set up to consider all five cases announced that the panel was now unlikely to issue its final report to the parties before the first half of 2016. It had originally been expected before the end of this year. Australia had earlier complained about delays in setting up the panel.

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