Cuba has become the latest country to take issue with Australia’s stringent tobacco rules regarding packaging and has filed a formal objection with the World Trade Organization to show their displeasure.
The objection, filed with the WTO Secretariat on May 3, requests consultations with Australia on the Australian Tobacco Plain Packaging Act of 2011 that regulates the appearance and form of retail packaging used in connection with sales of cigars, cigarettes and other tobacco products.
A request for consultation formally initiates a dispute in the WTO. Consultations give the parties an opportunity to discuss the matter and to find a satisfactory solution without proceeding further with litigation. After 60 days, if consultations have failed to resolve the dispute, the complainant may request adjudication by a panel.
In July 2012, the Dominican Republic filed a similar request for consultation regarding the Australian Tobacco Plain Packaging Act of 2011. Ukraine and Honduras have also filed requests. The four countries argue that the Act creates barriers to trade and violate intellectual property rights.
This is the first request that Cuba has made since joining the World Trade Organization in 1995.
In August 2012, Australia’s High Court upheld the constitutionality of a law passed by Parliament requiring the change to plain packaging. New Zealand is considered to be crafting a similar act for next year.