It looks like the tobacco industry has lost a crucial case against the Australian government over plain packaging

Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer

Australia appears to have won its case against the tobacco industry over plain packaging, in an as yet unpublished decision that will cause global shockwaves for the $US770 billion sector.

Bloomberg reports that the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute-settlement panel sided with Australia over its right to use plain-packaging.

The former Gillard government introduced plain packaging laws for cigarettes in late 2012 as a public health measure. It was a global first and sparked a series of unsuccessful legal actions by the tobacco industry and four tobacco-producing countries, Cuba, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Indonesia, lodged complaints with the WTO arguing the laws were an illegal barrier to trade.

They claimed the packaging laws breached trademarks and violated of several WTO agreements.

The WTO has apparently rejected those arguments in a ruling circulated to the parties involved this week, a WTO spokesperson told Bloomberg. The full ruling is due to released in July. The four countries involved will be able to appeal the decision.

The case has been widely seen as a watershed with several countries holding off on introducing plain packaging laws until the WTO decision was finalised.

France, Ireland, the UK and New Zealand are among a number of nations that have already introduced plain packaging laws.

A spokesperson for British American Tobacco, which wasn’t a part to the dispute, told Business Insider that even if the leaked verdict was true “it will not be the final word on whether plain packaging is consistent with international law”.

“There is a high likelihood of an appeal by some or all of the parties,” he said.

There’s more from Bloomberg here.

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