WTO: 2012 NEWS ITEMS

DISPUTE SETTLEMENT

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NOTE:
This summary has been prepared by the WTO Secretariat’s Information and External Relations Division to help public understanding about developments in WTO disputes. It is not a legal interpretation of the issues, and it is not intended as a complete account of the issues. These can be found in the reports themselves and in the minutes of the Dispute Settlement Body’s meetings.

DS435: Certain Measures Concerning Trademarks, Geographical Indications and Other Plain Packaging Requirements Applicable to Tobacco Products and Packaging

Australia rejected the first request for a panel made by Honduras on Australia’s measures concerning trademarks, geographical indications and other plain packaging requirements applicable to tobacco products and packaging.

Honduras said that Australia’s measures regulating the plain packaging of tobacco products appeared to be inconsistent with Australia’s obligations under the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement and the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement.  The measures restricted the essential functions of a trademark and geographical origin of certain products of special reputation.  In its view, Australia’s measures cannot be justified as necessary to protect human health.  Consultations held with Australia did not resolve the matter; hence, the request from Honduras for establishment of a panel. 

Australia said that its tobacco plain packaging was a sound, well-considered measure designed to achieve a legitimate objective, the protection of public health.  In its view, the plain packaging legislation does not undermine the protection afforded under the TRIPS Agreement nor was the measure more trade restrictive than necessary to fulfil its legitimate public health objective.  The measure was origin neutral, non-discriminatory and applied to all tobacco products. It was also in line with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which Honduras was also a party.  Thus, Australia was not in a position to agree to the establishment of a panel.

Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, the Dominican Republic and Ukraine shared Honduras’ concerns regarding the effect of Australia’s measures. Ukraine made reference to its previous statement regarding its own complaint about Australia’s measures. The Dominican Republic said that it too had submitted its request for the establishment of a panel to examine Australia’s measures and that request would be considered by the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) at its December meeting.  New Zealand, Norway and Uruguay supported Australia’s measure and noted the sovereign right of WTO members to regulate and protect public health.  New Zealand said that it too was considering plain packaging.

 

European Union — export subsidies on sugar

Brazil, Australia and Thailand made statements expressing their concern that the European Union’s actual exports of out-of-quota sugar for the past marketing year appeared to exceed its WTO commitments.  They made reference to past meetings of the DSB and the Committee on Agriculture where their concerns had also been expressed.  Brazil, Australia and Thailand called on the EU to respect its WTO subsidy commitments.

The EU said that it had always monitored its export subsidy commitments on the basis of licences issued, and not on the basis of physical exports.  The EU believed that its approach was in full compliance with WTO rules and said that it stood ready to provide all interested parties with the data on physical exports of sugar for the 2011-2012 marketing year.  Argentina said that, as a country that was concerned about export subsidies on agricultural goods in general, it would continue to monitor the situation.

 

Annual Report

The DSB adopted its 2012 draft Annual Report, contained in document WT/DSB/W/489 and WT/DSB/W/489/Add.1, on the understanding that it would be further updated by the Secretariat to include actions taken by the DSB at its meetings on 16 and 19 November 2012.

 

Panellists

The DSB approved the additional names, contained in document WT/DSB/W/492, for inclusion on the indicative list of governmental and non-governmental panellists.

 

Other business

Under "Other business", the EU informed members that, on 8 November 2012, the EU and ten Latin-American countries had signed a mutually agreed solution ending eight pending banana dispute settlement proceedings.  The notification of the mutually agreed solution concluded the series of proceedings in the WTO, as foreseen in the Geneva Agreement on Trade in Bananas signed in December 2009.  The EU expected that the pending dispute settlement proceeding brought by the United States would come to an end in the coming weeks.  Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, Cuba, US, Brazil and China welcomed the mutually agreed solution. They thanked the Secretariat and the Director-General and highlighted the importance of improving the Dispute Settlement Understanding to ensure prompt compliance. 

 

Implementation of recommendations

Several members (United States, European Union, Thailand and the Philippines) submitted reports on their implementation of recommendations adopted by the DSB.

 

Next meeting

The next regular meeting of the DSB is scheduled for 17 December 2012.

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