Dominican Republic complains against Australia on tobacco law
GENEVA, (Reuters) – The Dominican Republic filed a complaint at the World Trade Organization about Australia’s tobacco packaging laws yesterday, becoming the third country to challenge regulations strongly opposed by big cigarette manufacturers.
Australia plans to introduce new laws from October 1 which will force tobacco firms to abandon distinctive colourful branding and sell cigarettes in uniformly drab packets. Other tobacco products such as cigars must follow suit by December 1.
“The Dominican Republic has repeatedly expressed its concerns to the Australian government within the WTO and now feels compelled to request consultations to protect this important economic sector,” said the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to the WTO Luis Manuel Piantini in a statement.
Tobacco accounts for about five percent of the Dominican Republic’s total export revenues or around half a billion U.S. dollars each year.
Packaging on Dominican cigars can be ornate such as for the Arturo Fuente brand which features a woman with one breast exposed surrounded by colourful flags and cherubs.
British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris have launched High Court challenges against the laws, saying they infringe their trademark rights.
Australia has said the big tobacco companies are also behind the two legal challenges already mounted at the WTO by Ukraine and Honduras.