Specific Trade concerns
Canada — Bill C-32 Amendment to the “Tobacco Act”
Over twenty WTO Members including developing countries
and LDCs - raised concerns about Canada's “Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing
Aimed at Youth Act” (Bill C-32 amendment to the Tobacco Act), adopted by the
Canadian Parliament in October 2009.
This issue was raised at the last two TBT meetings. A summary of the debates can
be read here.
Aimed at protecting children and youth from industry marketing practices that
encourage smoking, the measure prohibits the manufacture and sale of cigarettes,
little cigars and blunt wraps that contain certain identified flavourings and
Concerned delegations stressed that the Tobacco Act would effectively ban
“blended cigarettes” (cigarettes made with several types of tobacco), which
contain a number of additives prohibited by Canadian law. These additives, they
argued, do not add a characteristic flavour to the end product but are, rather,
an essential component of the traditional blend that mitigates the strong
flavour of Burley tobacco.
Some members argued that the consequences may be significant: Malawi, Kenya and
Uganda mentioned the potential negative effects of the measure on their
economies and economic and social development, arguing that Canada should ensure
that the ban only applies to cigarettes that exhibit discernible confectionary
or fruit flavours. They made submissions to the Committee in this respect:
Malawi (in G/TBT/W/329); Kenya (in
G/TBT/W/330) and Uganda (in
Canada reiterated that the measure does not ban any type of tobacco product, it
only prohibits the use of additives, including flavours that make tobacco
products more appealing to children and youth. Canada emphasized that tobacco
use is a contributing factor to premature deaths and significant public health
care costs in Canada, and that sound scientific evidence exists that certain
additives, including flavours, do increase tobacco product attractiveness.
Canada also explained that a number of initiatives and policy regulations
restricting youth's access to tobacco products were being implemented, such as
restrictions on tobacco industry advertising, mass-media programming,
second-hand smoke messages and the development of school-based materials.
Thailand — Alcoholic Beverages (previously raised)
Thailand's measure on health warnings for alcoholic beverages measure would
require the display of specific health advisory statements and pictures on the
packaging of alcoholic beverages.
While members are supportive of the right to introduce regulations to address
legitimate public health objectives, there is concern that the proposed
labelling requirements are unnecessarily trade restrictive and that less
burdensome approaches are available to achieve the same objective.
Several Members reiterated that, as drafted, the strong graphic messages
contained in the labelling requirements could lead the consumer to believe that
the conditions covered by the health warnings are generally caused by any level
of alcohol consumption, even moderate consumption.
Thailand emphasized that while alcohol consumption is an individual's choice and
right, the collective responsibility to effectively address alcohol-related
problems is a public one. It was noted that to address this objective, Thailand
had implemented a policy consisting of various effective interventions aiming at
different target groups through different mechanisms (including the ban of small
alcohol bottles). Drawing experience from tobacco control, pictorial warning
labelling appeared to have a stronger impact than text-only messages —
particularly where there existed population groups with a relatively low
literacy rate. Thailand explained that the six proposed pictorial warning
messages were fully supported by international and domestic scientific evidence.
A new observer
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) was
granted ad hoc observer status in the TBT Committee.
The next meeting of the TBT Committee will take place
on 3-4 November 2010.
• enquiry point: an
official or office in a member government designated to deal
with enquiries from other WTO members and the public on a
subject such as technical barriers to trade or sanitary/phytosanitary
• notification: a transparency obligation requiring
member governments to report proposed measures to the relevant
WTO body if the measures might have an effect on other
• technical barriers to trade (TBT): regulations,
standards, testing and certification procedures, which could
impact trade. The WTO’s TBT Agreement aims to ensure that
these do not create unnecessary obstacles.
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