WTO: 2009 NEWS ITEMS

Members discussed 41 specific trade concerns, including 10 new ones. Several members raised concerns about new measures relating to trade in tobacco products taken by the United States and Canada, to prevent young people from smoking. Previously raised at earlier meetings, members also mentioned concerns about an EC measure affecting trade in poultry meat.

The Committee adopted its Fifth Triennial Review Report including recommendations in five areas on how to improve the operation and implementation of the TBT Agreement.

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SPECIFIC TRADE CONCERNS

New Trade Concerns: preventing young people from tobacco addiction

US — Clove Cigarettes

Indonesia expressed concerns about a new US measure prohibiting cigarettes containing certain flavours (G/TBT/W/323). The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which entered into force in September 2009, bans all cigarettes and their component parts containing artificial or natural flavours, herbs or spices other than menthol that give a product a particular flavour. At the meeting, Indonesia expressed regret that the measure prohibits the production and marketing of cigarettes containing certain additives, including clove, but permits the production and sale of other flavoured cigarettes, such as cigarettes containing menthol. According to Indonesia, the US regulation discriminates against imported clove cigarettes and creates an unnecessary barrier to trade.

In reply, the United States stressed that preventing young people from starting to smoke is important for public health purposes. Flavoured tobacco products, such as clove cigarettes, are particularly appealing to young people and represent a “starter product” that can lead to regular smoking. In the US view, clove cigarettes may also pose additional health risk over conventional cigarettes. On discrimination, the US argued that there are substantial differences between clove and menthol cigarettes, which make the two products not comparable.

Canada — Additives in tobacco products

The Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act entered into force in October 2009 and prohibits, among other things, the addition of various additives in cigarettes and other tobacco products sold in the Canadian market.  All members (Argentina, Mexico, Switzerland, Colombia, the EC, Turkey, the US and Macedonia) supported the legitimacy of Canada's objective of protecting young people from tobacco use and addiction.  Some members asked questions about the measure and others raised concerns. Some members were of the view that this decision could have an impact on their domestic producers and exporters and was far too restrictive. Some members raised concerns that there are other less restrictive means to protect young people from tobacco use: instead of banning additives, Canada could have prohibited products with a particular flavour. Some members also stressed that several types of additives used in blended cigarettes do not add a characteristic flavour to the product, but are an essential component that mitigates the strong flavour of Burley tobacco. The prohibition of these additives could have the effect of a de facto prohibition of blended cigarettes. Lastly, some members invited Canada to notify this regulation, according to the transparency obligations under the TBT Agreement.

Canada informed the Committee that this measure had been designed to address public health concerns by reducing the incentives for young people to smoke. Canada also stressed that it only prohibits flavours and other additives used in cigarettes, not tobacco products. In Canada's view, there are sufficient scientific elements proving that additives increase tobacco addiction especially amongst the young population.

Previously raised concerns: poultry

EC — Poultry meat

Brazil and Australia raised a concern about EC regulations on marketing standards for poultry meat. This issue was raised for the first time in June 2009 (G/TBT/N/EEC/267). Brazil and Australia argued that the proposal would alter the current definition of “fresh poultry meat”. In particular, Brazil believed that defrosted and fresh poultry meat are like products and that the EC proposed amendment would ban defrosted poultry meat from the EU marketplace, thus discriminating against non-EU producers, since distant suppliers had normally to freeze their meat products for export. Australia questioned whether the EC standard is consistent with existing international standards and suggested that the European Communities consider alternatives to the current marketing standard, such as including in the label a reference to “previously frozen or chilled” product.

The European Communities pointed out that when consumers buy a preparation that is labelled “fresh” they expect it not to contain defrosted meat. The EC also stressed that the current proposal do not ban the sale of frozen poultry meat, rather it restricts the use of the term “fresh” to poultry meat that has not been frozen. Also, the EC noted that frozen poultry meat only represents a very small part of Brazil's exports to the EC.

 

ADOPTION OF REPORTS

The Committee adopted its Fifth Triennial Review Report (G/TBT/26). Every 3 years, the TBT Committee evaluates in a report how the TBT Agreement operates and is implemented with the objective of improving the Committee's work.

It contains substantive recommendations in five areas that will guide the Committee’s work over the next three years:

  • Good regulatory practice

  • Conformity assessment procedures

  • Standards

  • Transparency

  • Technical assistance

The Committee also adopted its Annual Report (G/L/895/Rev.1) and carried out the Eighth Annual Transitional Review mandated in the Protocol of Accession of the People's Republic of China (G/TBT/27).

 

NEXT MEETING

The next meeting of the TBT Committee will take place on 24-25 March 2010.

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