The dispute panel with respect to the Australian Tobacco Plain packaging legislation is finally constituted at the WTO. I have blogged about it earlier here, here and here.. Ukraine, Honduras and the Dominican Republic are pitted against Australia. The dispute raises intricate questions about issues of public health, domestic regulatory space, intellectual property, international trade and protectionism.
Ukraine raised these primary issues in the complaint:
Diverse interests and issues coalescing here:
1. Intellectual property rights of tobacco product manufacturers
2. Public health concerns
3. Domestic policy space to regulate in relation to public health
4. Restrictions on international trade
5. Right to trade in tobacco products
6. Relationship between international conventions relating to health and the multilateral trading system
7. Livelihood and employment issues
8. National business interest vis a vis public health
With New Zealand announcing its intention of introducing plain packaging legislation, and a number of third party members, including India, in this dispute, it sure promises to be keenly contested dispute. Not surprisingly, Ukraine seems to have abandoned the violation of "national treatment" principle argument, unless it remains in the detailed submission. Atleast prima facie, there seems to be no less favorable treatment to imported tobacco products as compared to locally made tobacco products. Both will have to follow the plain packaging requirement.