WTO Panel's Preliminary Ruling Favours Dominican Republic in Its Challenge to Australia's Plain Packaging Law

GENEVA, Nov. 13, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Dominican Republic applauded the recent preliminary ruling (WT/DS441/19) by a World Trade Organization Panel in the country's efforts to challenge Australia's plain packaging law for tobacco products. In its ruling, the Panel rejected all of Australia's procedural objections to the Dominican Republic's claims.

This dispute is being coordinated by Dr. Katrina Naut, the Dominican Republic's Director General of Foreign Trade in her capacity as a national expert, together with Luis Manuel Piantini, the country's ambassador to the WTO.

To this end, both the Ambassador and Dr. Naut have stated that the Dominican Republic has now taken the important step of filing its first written submission in the dispute, using comprehensive analysis of data from the marketplace. They have noted that, nearly two years since Australia's plain packaging measures took effect, the measures have failed to contribute to reducing smoking in Australia. Instead, the measures are threatening the position of the Dominican Republic's tobacco brands, and also the local industries that manufacture these products.

"This dispute is about taking a firm stand to protect thousands of Dominican jobs and a sector that's a critical part of our economy and cultural heritage," said Dr. Katrina Naut. For his part, Ambassador Piantini noted that "We're playing by the rules of international trade in order to defend our local economy and create high-value tobacco products. By failing to abide by these rules, Australia has degraded our premium products."

Likewise, both Dr. Naut and Ambassador Piantini have stated that the Dominican Republic does not accept Australia's policy as it is obvious that it is failing to reduce smoking.

They both noted that they are pleased the WTO panel has agreed that their complaint was properly filed and affirmed that this is the first time the country has ever appealed to the WTO as a claimant.

In addition to the Dominican Republic, four other countries – Cuba, Honduras, Indonesia and Ukraine – are challenging Australia's plain packaging measures under the WTO's dispute settlement system. A record number of other countries (36) are taking part in the WTO disputes as third parties as Australia's measures threaten the way that branding has been used for hundreds of years to help consumers choose their preferred brands. The dispute could have an impact on the way that a wide range of consumer goods is sold in markets throughout the world.

About the Dominican tobacco industry

Tobacco has been cultivated in the Dominican Republic for more than five centuries and the Dominican tobacco industry is more than one hundred years old. Tobacco export revenues represent 7.5 percent of total exports. Tobacco products represent 8.5 per cent of fiscal revenue on merchandise taxation. The entire tobacco production chain generates around 110,000 direct jobs and supports approximately 350,000 people, according to information published by the Tobacco Institute of the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is the largest exporter of cigars in the world.


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