This week, Honduras filed an appeal to the World Trade Organization’s panel report on the matter of Australia’s plain packaging requirement for tobacco products.
Last month, a WTO panel upheld Australia’s tobacco plain packaging measures, stating that the four countries who filed complaints against them failed to demonstrate that they are inconsistent with the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement on the basis that they are more trade-restrictive than necessary to achieve a legitimate objective, which in this case is to reduce the prevalence of smoking and increase public health. The panel also did not find that Australia was in violation of existing agreements over the registration and use of trademarks.
Honduras was joined by the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Indonesia in countries filing challenges to the rule that led to the June 28 panel decision. Ukraine also had filed a case, but later withdrew it.
The matter now goes before a three-member group of the WTO Appellate Body, who will have up to three months to complete its report. The appeal can only be based on points of law, such as legal interpretation, according to the WTO’s protocol for appeals. The appeal process cannot reopen factual findings made by the original panel.
The case stands to have impact well beyond Australia, as Ireland, the United Kingdom and Canada have all passed similar requirements for plain packaging, while Norway, Slovenia, New Zealand, Burkina Faso, Georgia, Romania, Slovenia and Thailand have proposals currently under consideration.