| GENEVA, Sept 13
GENEVA, Sept 13 Ukraine and Honduras are
reviving a dispute at the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
challenging Australian laws that impose uniform drab green
packaging and large graphic health warnings for cigarettes,
diplomats said on Friday.
The move sets the wheels in motion on a legal dispute widely
seen as a test case for tobacco control around the world, with
health ministries pitted against cigarette firms such as British
American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Philip
Morris and Japan Tobacco.
Tobacco firms say the Australian rules, which outlaw logos,
infringe their trademarks. The WTO complainants say the rules
create illegal obstacles to world trade.
The World Health Organization sees Australia's campaign,
which has so far defeated the tobacco industry's legal
challenges, as heralding a "brave new world of tobacco control".
Other countries are lining up to follow Australia.
Six million people die every year from smoking and the toll
is projected to rise to eight million by 2030, according to the
WHO, a United Nations agency waging war on "Big Tobacco".
The complaints against Australia at the WTO were in limbo
after Ukraine and Honduras both effectively suspended the
process of setting up a WTO panel to adjudicate on the dispute
late last year, around the time the Australian laws came into
Ukraine had asked the WTO to adjudicate, but then asked for
the process to be suspended in November 2012. At the same time,
Honduras declined to tick the final bureaucratic box that would
have triggered WTO adjudication.
It has only now signalled it plans to go ahead, asking for a
WTO meeting on Sept 25 to set up a panel of adjudicators,
according to an agenda of the meeting.
Ukraine has also reactivated its request within the past
month, diplomatic sources said.
Many governments may decide whether to press ahead with
their own measures to discourage tobacco use only after seeing
the outcome of the WTO case.
Two other countries, Dominican Republic and Cuba, launched
similar WTO disputes against Australia, but their complaints
remain at an earlier stage and neither has tabled a request for
WTO adjudication at the Sept 25 meeting.
Nobody at the WTO missions of Australia or Honduras was
available to comment on the dispute on Friday.