After formal objections of several countries over Australia’s requirement that tobacco products come in plain packaging, the World Trade Organization’s disputes settlement body will hear arguments from two of the largest cigar producing countries in the world, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, on Friday, April 25.
The two countries are joined in opposition by Honduras, as well as Indonesia and Ukraine, which are both producers of raw tobacco and exporters of cigarettes. A go-ahead to have the complaints of those three countries has already been given.
They maintain that the plain packaging requirement infringes on international trade rules and intellectual property rights, which in turn damage their brands. Australia’s government has rejected that argument, as has the country’s High Court.
The WTO’s panels are made up of independent trade and legal experts, and should they find a violation has occurred, have the power to authorize retaliatory trade measures by the wronged countries.
There is no timetable for the results of the hearing, and any decision can take years to implement after appeals and counter-appeals.