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Norway joins WTO consultations on Australian tobacco case

Last updated: 26.03.2012 //

On 13 March Ukraine requested consultations with Australia regarding the 2011 Tobacco Plain Packaging Act and related regulations, requiring plain packaging on tobacco in an effort to address the severe public health problem related to its use. Ukraine argues that Australia’s law violates the 1994 WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), as well as the Technical Barriers to Trade agreement (TBT) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which generally covers trade in goods.

Public health in general and tobacco control specifically are topics that are very important to Norway. Tobacco control policies and preventive measures, such as the ones being proposed by Australia, have the legitimate objective of protecting public health by reducing smoking, and Norway believes that regulation of product packaging is a vital measure in order to achieve reduction in tobacco consumption.

The two parties will hold consultations to see if they can settle their differences. The parties have 60 days to settle the dispute bilaterally, after which the complainant can request the establishment of a panel, at a meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body. Norway wants to signal clear support to Australia concerning their right to introduce necessary measures in order to protect public health. Therefore, Norway has requested to be joined in the consultations requested by Ukraine. Norway will continue to follow this case with a very keen interest and is prepared to continue to defend the interests of public health.

The issue has been discussed among WTO members at the last meeting of the WTO Council on TRIPS and TBT. Norway supported Australia in its statements in both fora.

Read more about the requested consultations on the WTO website.  

Read the Norwegian statements in the TRIPS Council and the TBT Committee.

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