The Dominican Republic successfully requests the establishment of a WTO panel to examine the WTO compatibility of Australia's Plain Packaging Laws

| Source: Farner

GENEVA, April 25, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today the Dominican Republic successfully requested the Dispute Settlement Body ("DSB") of the World Trade Organization ("WTO") to establish a WTO panel to examine whether Australia's plain packaging measures for tobacco products are compliant with the WTO rules and treaty obligations. A panel with respect to the same measure was also established upon the request of Cuba at today's DSB meeting.

This brings to five the total number of WTO complaints against Australia's plain packaging measures, as WTO panels have already been established in the past for Ukraine, Honduras, and Indonesia. 

By circumscribing intellectual property, namely trademarks and geographic indications, Australia's plain packaging measures will undermine the Dominican Republic's tobacco industry, specifically, its premium cigar sector.

Dr. Katrina Naut, the Dominican Republic's Director General of Foreign Trade and Administration of Trade Agreements, Directorate of Foreign Trade, said, "My country fully shares Australia's health objectives. However, its plain packaging measure is failing to have the desired health effects of reducing smoking prevalence and remains detrimental to our premium tobacco industry. By banning all design elements from tobacco packaging, plain packaging precludes our producers from differentiating their premium products from competitors in the marketplace."

There are around 5,500 tobacco producers in the Dominican Republic, employing approximately 55,000 agricultural workers plus 63,000 in tobacco manufacturing. Overall, the industry supports approximately 350,000 jobs in the Dominican Republic and its export amount to approximately US $ 600 million for 2013.

Luis Manuel Piantini, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the WTO, explains: "We will do everything we can in order to protect the jobs, export revenues, and intellectual property rights that are invaluable to our developing economy. Plain packaging is not only an ineffective health policy, but also one that is detrimental to fair competition in the marketplace."

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