The link between Tobacco and the WTO does not seem to be going away anytime soon. After the Tobacco Plain packaging dispute about which I have blogged about here and here, concerns about EUs new Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) were raised by Malawi at the TBT Committee at the WTO.
As per the WTO website:
"The TPD includes a wide range of provisions related to packaging, composition and sale of tobacco products in the EU. For instance, tobacco products with characterising flavours (including menthol) and slim cigarettes (with a diameter of less than 7.5 mm) would be banned; health warnings would need to occupy at least 75% of the front and the back of the packs; and, cigarette packs would need to be of a uniform size and shape. These provisions would not apply to cigars, cigarillos, and pipe tobacco, according to the rationale that such products are predominately used by older people — instead the provisions of the existing tobacco directive would continue to apply (Directive 2001/37/EC)."Reuters reporting about it here highlighted Malawi's concerns about the measure impacting its foreign exchange earning capacities as well as it's employment.
Will this be the next Tobacco dispute at the WTO with developing countries that rely on tobacco exports as one of the main sources of employment and trade challenging the measure? Is the exemption of cigars and other cigar products justified under the TBT Agreement? While Plain packaging was a TRIPS issue, this regulation is more int he nature of a technical regulation that is a restriction on international trade. WIll we see Malawi requesting for consultation at the WTO? Another example of the "rule-based" WTO system where countries irrespective of economic power and standing can participate in the multilateral system to protect their national interests?