High Court ruling bolsters Australia’s WTO case for plain packaging

Media release

20 August 2012

The Gillard Government’s win in the High Court over big tobacco is set to strengthen its case against attacks in international forums.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson said today the Government would vigorously defend a challenge against it by Ukraine through the World Trade Organization. The challenge was initiated on the same day of the High Court’s ruling last week against tobacco companies’ appeal against plain packaging legislation.

Ukraine has formally called for the establishment of a dispute settlement panel under the WTO to rule on its complaint that the Australian Government's plain packaging legislation is inconsistent with its obligations under various WTO agreements.

Several countries have indicated their support for Australia’s right to take legitimate public health measures under WTO agreements, including Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Brazil and Uruguay.

“Australia will strongly defend its right to regulate to protect public health through the plain packaging of tobacco products,” Dr Emerson said.

“The Government is confident that its plain packaging legislation is consistent with Australia’s WTO obligations.”

Philip Morris Asia Limited has also initiated an investor-state arbitration claim under the Australia Hong Kong Agreement on the Promotion and Protection of Investments.

“Australia will strongly defend its plain packaging legislation in all forums,” Dr Emerson said.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's Office: (02) 6277 4330
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555