Minutes - TRIPS Council - View details of the intervention/statement

Ambassador Mothusi Palai (Botswana)
441. Australia’s tobacco plain packaging measure is a legitimate public health measure which is consistent with Australia’s obligations under the WTO Agreement. 442. As other Members are aware, a panel has now been composed to hear the disputes regarding Australia’s plain packaging measures brought by Ukraine, Honduras, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, pursuant to a harmonised timetable. As the matter is currently subject to dispute proceedings, it would not be appropriate to comment further on Australia's measures. But would like to share a few general comments. 443. Australia reiterates its strong support for the decision by Ireland, the UK and other WTO Members to legislate for the mandatory plain packaging of tobacco products. 444. In particular, we welcome the UK’s recent announcement that it will be introducing regulations for standardised packaging which, if passed, will come into force in May 2016. The decision follows assessment of the evidence of the positive public health impacts of standardised packaging, including the findings of an independent review. Similarly, we acknowledge the presentation of implementing legislation to the Irish Parliament in June last year. 445. The important steps made by these Members and others in tobacco control demonstrate that efforts to delay the adoption of tobacco plain packaging measures in these countries have not been successful. Australia looks forward to continuing our support of fellow WTO Members like the UK and Ireland as they proceed with the implementation of their own tobacco plain packaging measures. 446. Contrary to the claims of the Dominican Republic and other Members here today tobacco plain packaging is not about the destruction of intellectual property rights. The measure prevents the use of tobacco product packaging to advertise and promote a unique product that causes significant damage to public health. Indeed the tobacco industry itself has called tobacco packaging its "mobile billboard". 447. As we have consistently stated, Australia is of the firm view that Members have the right to implement measures necessary to protect public health, while complying with relevant international treaty obligations, including the TRIPS Agreement. Tobacco plain packaging is a legitimate measure, designed to achieve a fundamental objective – the protection of human health. 448. It is inappropriate for complainants in the WTO disputes currently underway against Australia to invoke those proceedings in an attempt to delay or discourage another Member from developing or implementing their own legitimate tobacco control measures. 449. The tobacco plain packaging measure is endorsed by leading public health experts as well as the World Health Organization and is supported by extensive peer reviewed research, reports and studies.
The Council took note of the statements made.
12.1. The Chairman said that this item had been put on the agenda at the written request by the delegation of the Dominican Republic.

12.2. The representatives of the Dominican Republic; the European Union; Nicaragua; Honduras; Cuba; Indonesia; Nigeria; Zimbabwe; Australia; Uruguay; Canada; Norway; New Zealand; and the World Health Organization took the floor.

12.3. The Council took note of the statements made.

IP/C/M/78, IP/C/M/78/Add.1