Tobacco industry takes Aust packaging fight overseas | Asia Pacific

Tobacco industry takes Aust packaging fight overseas

Tobacco industry takes Aust packaging fight overseas

Posted 27 May 2011, 21:53 AEST

In Australia there are signs the fight against the government's plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes, is heating up.

The ABC's Lateline program has obtained evidence that a former US ambassador to the World Trade Organisation has been lobbying Malaysia to oppose the Australian Government's proposal.

Presenter: Alma Mistry

Matthew Myers, Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids; David Crow, CEO, British American Tobacco Australia, Steve Cannane, ABC Lateline Reporter

MISTRY: Peter Allgeier is a former US ambassador to the World Trade Organization and for eight years served as the Bush administration's deputy trade representative. He now works at a Washington-based consultancy, CMN international. This email, obtained by Lateline, was sent to an Malaysian official and shows that Peter Allgeier has been lobbying Malaysia to put pressure on Australia over plain packaging.

EMAIL:"There are several opportunities forthcoming for Malaysia and other like-minded governments to persuade Australia not to proceed. ... One option is to raise concerns in response to Australia's notification to the WTO TBT committee, which meets on June 15-16. ... A second option is to address this issue at the next WTO TRIPs Council meeting on June 7-8. ... A third option is to respond to Australia's request for comment on its draft legislation, which is open for comment until June 6."

MISTRY: Washington based anti smoking campaigner Matthew Myers, says the email is proof that big tobacco is trying to use its international political power to stop plain packaging.

MATTHEW MYERS: Peter Allgeier has a long history of working in ways to intimidate other countries to back down from tobacco control measures. He led the Office of the United States Trade Representative's negotiations with Taiwan and Korea in the 1980s, including efforts to get those countries to back down on important marketing restrictions to kids. So this is nothing new. And the firm he works for actually solicited the business of British-American Tobacco when the framework convention on tobacco control was being negotiated to try to get them to retain them to defeat tobacco control measures by using trade tactics.

MISTRY: At a recent press conference, the CEO of British American Tobacco Australia, David Crow, wouldn't be drawn on whether his company is directly connected to Peter Allgeier's lobbying.

DAVID CROW(May 17): We're talking to loads of stakeholders right across the network and I'm sure it'll include the World Trade Organization because Australian Government has to also abide by its treaties on its global nature.

REPORTER, STEVE CANNANE: So you're paying corporate relations firms to lobby countries that may put pressure on Australia to change plain packaging?

DAVID CROW: Actually, I think we're actually approaching them personally, from BAT to talk to relevant organisations and stakeholders. Everybody, including the retail organisations.

MISTRY: According to information obtained by Lateline, that campaign also includes senior US Congressmen. One of them is Republican Donald Manzullo, who sits on the House of Representatives committee on foreign affairs. In a letter sent to the Australian Government he criticises plain packaging.

LETTER: "Not only does it violate Australia's global trade obligations and undermine trademark protection, ... but it also has the negative effect of emboldening governments less committed to intellectual property right protection to dismiss global trade rules."

MISTRY: The Australian Government hopes to introduce plain packaging in the next few months. Anti-smoking campaigner Matthew Myers says he's hopeful the Government won't be swayed by by international pressure.

MATTHEW MYERS: This is about using the global economic power of a tobacco industry that always puts profit over health in an effort to intimidate the Australian Government. I hope they won't fall for it.

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