Plain packaging threatens Dominican Republic’s hard-fought premium position

| November 14, 2012

The Dominican Republic has requested the establishment of a panel under the dispute settlement procedures of the World Trade Organization to consider a challenge toAustralia’s plain packaging measures for tobacco products, according to a Marketwire report.

The country’s representatives have asked that this request be included on the agenda of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body meeting on December 17.

From December 1,Australiawill require that all tobacco products be sold in ‘plain packaging’ – packaging designed on behalf of the government to be as ugly as is possible. Packs will be a standardized olive color, without logos or other design features, and with brand and variant names in a standardized font and position.

The requirement will prevent tobacco products from using their trademarks and geographical indicators.

‘These unprecedented measures will undermine theDominican Republic’s tobacco industry, in particular its premium cigar sector,’ the report said. ‘By prescribing standardized plain packaging, the tobacco market will be driven towards commoditization, with declining prices, and increasing – rather than falling – consumption and illicit trade.

‘TheDominican RepublicsupportsAustralia’s health objectives. However, plain packaging will undermine those health objectives, failing to curb consumption, while destroying the market for Dominican producers.Australia’s plain packaging measures do not, therefore, withstand scrutiny under the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

“Tobacco has been an intrinsic part of the Dominican culture and heritage for centuries, and the tobacco sector is vital for our development,” said Luis Manuel Piantini, theDominican Republic’s ambassador to the WTO.

“Our producers have made enormous investments – including in intellectual property – to turn theDominican Republicfrom a simple tobacco leaf exporter into one of the world’s leading producers of premium cigars and the world’s largest exporter of cigars. This is a significant achievement for a small developing economy.

“Plain packaging will wipe away these achievements – our premium cigars will be dressed as discount products, which people will continue to smoke; prices will ultimately fall, affecting the livelihood of more than a hundred thousand Dominican workers and their families.

“The TRIPS and TBT agreements protect our commercial and development achievements.”

Category: Breaking News

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