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Cuba Files WTO Dispute Against Tobacco Plain Packaging

Issued: May 13 2013

Cuba has notified the World Trade Organization of a request for a consultation with Australia regarding the Australian Tobacco Plain Packaging Act of 2011.
Cuba has notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat of a request for a consultation with Australia regarding the Australian Tobacco Plain Packaging Act of 2011, which regulates the appearance and form of retail packaging used with sales of cigars, cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Cuba argues that the Act does not conform with Australia’s obligations of TRIPS, the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) of 1994. The Dominican Republic, Honduras and Ukraine have also requested consultations with Australia.

The request for consultation officially starts a dispute in the WTO. Consultations allow the countries to negotiate to reach a win-win situation before taking their cases to courts. If a settlement is not obtained upon 60 days of consultations, the complainant may request adjudication by a panel.

The case marks Cuba’s first dispute at the WTO as either a complainant or respondent, though it has been a third party in 15 WTO cases.

New Zealand has previously announced plans for tobacco plain packaging regulations. According to a May 30, 2013, report on Australia’s ABC network, Ireland, too, has announced plans to enforce plain packaging for cigarettes, and Irish health minister James Reilly hopes the European Union will provide Australia with support in the WTO dispute.

Reilly told ABC’s AM radio programme that he had requested support for Australia from Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. “I want Ireland and I want him to use his support as well in Europe to back Australia at the World Trade Organization,” Reilly said. “I’m pretty certain we’re going to support [Australia], that’s for sure.”


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