Specific Trade concerns

Thailand — Health Warnings for Alcoholic Beverages (new)

Seven members including Mexico, the EU, Argentina, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia and the US raised concerns about Thailand's measure (G/TBT/N/THA/332 and Add.1) requiring the display of specific health advisory statements and pictures on the packaging of alcoholic beverages.

Members did not contest the legitimacy of Thailand's objectives to address public health concerns, but they argued that the labelling requirements created unnecessary obstacles to trade and that Thailand could instead use less restrictive methods such as public information campaigns to achieve the same objective. Members also said that the labelling requirements could mislead the consumer by informing them that drinking any level of alcohol, even moderately, could lead to health problems.

Thailand informed the TBT Committee that the period for consultations on the draft measure had been extended to offer members further opportunity for comment.

Brazil — Labelling of alcoholic beverages (new)

The EU, Mexico and the US raised concerns regarding Brazil's labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages (G/TBT/N/BRA/362 and Suppl.1). Among other issues, it was argued that the requirement to indicate alcohol content on the front main label; the prohibition of abbreviations (even well-established ones) and the obligation to translate into Portuguese terms such as “light” or “diet”, which were well known by Brazilian consumers, imposed a heavy and unnecessary burden on exporters and importers. They asked Brazil to review this measure.

Brazil said that this measure was aimed at harmonising the labelling criteria between national and foreign producers.

US — Transportation of lithium batteries (new)

Korea, Japan, Israel and China raised concerns about a US measure imposing specific packaging and labelling conditions for lithium batteries to enhance safety and reduce risks of fire during their transportation, including transport by aircraft (G/TBT/N/USA/518). Members said that this measure was not consistent with existing international standards; that it would increase the production costs of lithium batteries — leading to higher prices of products using such batteries for consumers; and, that there could be discriminatory effect in that US producers normally transported batteries over land while importers relied more heavily on air transport.

The US said that this measure was taken for security and safety reasons; they noted that when on fire, lithium batteries were difficult to extinguish — this presented a significant hazard during transportation, particularly in the context of air travel. The US said its Department of Transportation continued to discuss these issues with its counterparts in international forums. An information session had been organised at the beginning of March 2010 and the US would review all comments before finalising this measure, which was based on a regulation published in 2009.

Canada — Additives in tobacco products (previously raised)

Fourteen members including Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Malawi, Brazil, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic, Philippines, Turkey, the EU, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the US, Japan and Zimbabwe reiterated concerns about the “Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act” adopted by the Canadian Parliament in October 2009. This measure prohibits the use of certain additives in cigarettes and other tobacco products and is aimed at preventing young people from smoking.

Members argued that the Tobacco Act would effectively ban “blended cigarettes” (cigarettes made with several types of tobacco), which contain a number of additives prohibited by Canada. They stated that these additives are an essential component of “blended cigarettes” reducing the strong flavour of Burley tobacco and does not add a characteristic flavour. Banning these additives could have the effect of a “de facto” prohibition of “blended cigarettes”. The delegation of Malawi set out detailed concerns in a document circulated to the Committee on the day of the meeting (G/TBT/W/329).

Canada responded that the measure was designed to address public health concerns, to reduce incentives for young people to smoke so as to prevent addiction to tobacco. It was stressed that certain additives did increase the attractiveness of tobacco products. The new Act prohibits the use of certain additives in little cigars, cigarettes and blunt wraps sold in Canada, regardless of their origin. It does not ban any type of tobacco product or types of tobacco.


Adoption of reports

The TBT Committee adopted its Annual Review (G/TBT/28).


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Next meeting  

The next meeting of the TBT Committee will take place on 23-24 June 2010. This meeting will be preceded by the TBT Committee's Sixth Special Meeting on Procedures for Information Exchange (on transparency), to be held on 22 June 2010.


 Jargon buster 

• 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 measures.

• 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 members' trade.

• 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.

> More jargon: glossary

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